Wood’s blood-clot trauma
Tom Wood was left in agony and struggling to breathe by an embolism that appeared in the Northampton flanker’s lung
England and Northampton flanker Tom Wood has revealed how he was doubled up in pain as the result of a blood clot which migrated to his lung. The 33-yearold says the pain was so severe that his wife was even checking his life insurance policy and will. He is hoping to return to action in the Premiership semi-finals.
With his matter-of-fact delivery, Tom Wood sounds like he is describing a routine injury rather than a pulmonary embolism, which left the Northampton flanker unable to lie down for five days and had his wife checking the life insurance policy.
A pulmonary embolism is the result of a blocked blood vessel in the lungs, which can be life-threatSo, ening if not caught early enough. It is commonly associated with smokers, long-haul fliers and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Wood fits into none of those categories. The 33-year-old had come out of lockdown in superb shape, posting pictures of himself lifting homemade log barbells online.
So, there was no hint of a warning sign a month ago when he went to bed on a Tuesday night. A deep sleeper, Wood woke at 5am with a searing pain in his chest that he was unable to shift.
Another thing to note about Wood is that even within rugby circles, he is known for having a ridiculously high pain threshold that has allowed him to accrue more than 200 appearances for Northampton and 50 England caps. He has broken more bones in his body than many people knew existed.
when he says the pain he experienced that day was “right up there”, it is safe to assume this represented the purest form of agony.
“Symptom-wise, it was real hard chest pains,” Wood says. “I couldn’t stand up straight. It was folding me in half. I was hunched over and panting, like I had been winded. I couldn’t sit up and open my chest.”
Taken to Northampton General Hospital, Wood underwent a battery of tests.
“It took them til about 2pm to find the problem and I was beginning to feel like a fraud by then as I was sat there feeling good on the morphine, but all the tests came back negative,” Wood says.
“I was thinking, ‘Blimey, I’ve wasted everyone’s time and made a big fuss over nothing’. Then they did a contrast CT scan where they inject contrast dye into you, and they found the clot. It wasn’t a scarily big one, but decent enough that they found it and put me on blood thinners straight away.”
A clot that originated in his calf had lodged in his lung, known as an “infarction”. As he was otherwise healthy, Wood was discharged that afternoon, in part because he was next to the Covid-19 ward. However, he soon found that the painkillers he was prescribed were insufficient to stem his discomfort.
“I don’t think it touched the sides,” Wood says. “I could have probably taken double or triple. I couldn’t lie on my back and sleep. I was in too much pain. I had to work unbelievably hard to get control of my breathing. I was panting and I had to really work to get control of it, so I could relax.”
Despite his situation, Wood insists he remained pretty calm, even if his family were fearing the worst.
“A lot of people have said you must have been terrified or scared or whatever, but I wouldn’t describe it as any of those things,” he says. “I am always pretty matter of fact about it. I don’t get too worked up about those things – it is more about my mum and my missus who have been a bit besides themselves. The missus checked the life insurance and the will and everything was in order pretty quick.”
After his stay in hospital, Wood was confined to his sofa for the better part of a week, mainly spent watching Netflix’s “I couldn’t get off the sofa without having an episode,” Wood says. “I didn’t sleep in my own bed for four or five days because I couldn’t lie down. I had to sleep upright.”
After that scare, Wood has suffered no further symptoms. Within a week, he was back training with his usual ferocity, but he is not allowed to engage in contact sessions because of his blood thinners.
His return date has been pencilled in for the Premiership semi-finals, although he is hoping to persuade his consultant to sanction an earlier comeback. Otherwise “I just need the boys to do a job and then I will come in and do a John Terry at the last minute”.
‘I was hunched over and panting, like I had been winded. I couldn’t sit up’
Road to recovery: Tom Wood has returned to Northampton, but has not yet resumed contact training