After an ultrasound for a swollen leg, Orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Dietrich’s personal physician put it bluntly… “You Should Be… DEAD.”
When Akron-area orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Dietrich felt some “thickness” in his right calf during a recent operation (he’s a hand surgeon), he pulled up his scrubs and noticed that his calf appeared swollen. He wondered if he’d bumped it somehow. He finished the operation without incident and went home, icing and wrapping his calf, hoping it would get better. It didn’t.
“In the morning it did look better – until I stood up,” Dietrich recalled. “Once I stood, I could feel my leg pulsating and I saw large veins in my calf. I knew something was wrong. I considered that I might have a blood clot, but I had no risk factors, like cigarette smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, or a recent, long plane trip.”
Dr. Dietrich, 53, was concerned enough that he went to the hospital for an ultrasound. “I was in shock when I saw that the ultrasound revealed a blood clot almost up to my groin,” he said. “Afterward, my doctor met me in the emergency room. He did a helical CT scan from my head to my groin.” When the two physicians met to discuss the results of the scan, Dietrich’s doctor put it bluntly – “You should be dead.”
“You have multiple pulmonary emboli,” he continued. “Those are blood clots breaking off from somewhere in your venous system and traveling to your lungs.”
John Dietrich immediately recalled photos from his days in medical school photos of windpipes with clots in the veins, clots that prevent blood from reaching the lungs, causing shortness of breath and…death.
Why wasn’t he dead? “The clots were due to a hereditary blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden,” Dietrich revealed. “Everyone attributes my survival to a tremendous cardiac reserve. My heart was strong enough to push the emboli through instead of blocking the vein, allowing me to live.”
And Dietrich attributes his good heart to exercise. “I’ve worked out with a personal trainer at least three times a week since turning 50,” he said. “This past winter, we increased my cardio so I was in really good shape.”
Initially, during each workout, Dietrich would do the elliptical or treadmill or a combination of both to burn 200 to 300 calories, later working up to burning as much as 600 calories doing his cardio routine, followed by weight training.
“Dr. John Dietrich is a highly motivated individual,” said Jeff Cook, Dietrich’s personal trainer. “He works hard and he’s committed. He achieves his workout goals every time he comes here and he does it in a shorter and shorter time, allowing him to continually improve his fitness level.”
Dietrich, on the other hand, credits Jeff with his success. “I get much more out of working with Jeff,” he said. “The first time I walked in there, I had been working out at home but it was nothing like the workout Jeff put me through. On a couple of machines I can now do the entire weight stack. When I first started I was nowhere close to that.”
Dietrich said he tried working out at local fitness centers, but the socializing got in the way. “I like people and I would spend so much time talking with people I know that I could never really focus on my workout. The results I was getting were not proportional to the time I put into them. We stay focused.” He also tried working out at home. “I was never as motivated in my home,” he said. “There is always a phone ringing, a TV show, something else to do. Any excuse to get out of exercising was easy to find.
Plus, when you’re working out with a trainer – and paying for it – it makes you go. I achieve more in one hour with Jeff than I would ever push myself to do on my own.” Dietrich insists that exercise helps you feel better, helps you achieve your diet goals more easily, improves your stamina, results in faster recovery times from injury and illness, and improves your overall quality of life.
“When John told me that his fitness level had saved his life, I got a lump in my throat,” trainer Jeff Cook revealed. “It was a highly motivating reminder to me that what we do here every day is important. Helping people achieve their fitness goals really is a matter of life and death.”