|Brian Vickers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for qualifying on March 7, 2014|
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images via NASCAR
March is National Blood Clot Awareness Month, which inspired the driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota to talk about his experience. Vickers said his first go-round was a blood clot in his left leg, called a deep vein thrombosis, which eventually ended up as a pulmonary embolus, a blood clot in his lungs.
“I largely ignored the signs and symptoms of what was happening, and it nearly cost me my life,” he said. “Ultimately, it did land me in the hospital and doctors did diagnose me with blood clots in time.”
That original blood clot developed after Vickers ran two races in one day — including sitting through two black flags —then hopped on a plane for a long flight. Sitting still for a long time in a plane or car without being able to stretch one's legs can increase the risk of blood clots for anyone.
His second deep vein thrombosis was a result of wearing a boot to immobilize his sprained foot, Vickers said, so a lack of movement due to the boot was likely responsible. This time, the 2003 Busch Series champ recognized the symptoms — persistent pain, redness and swelling — and went straight to the doctor. He finished his treatment in time to start the 2014 season at Daytona.
“Being able to get back in a race car has given me a platform to really share my story and raise awareness about blood clotting and the risk and the problems with it ...”
Surprisingly, Vickers said he is thankful for the blood clots, because his personal faith increased and his appreciation for his career grew as a result of his medical difficulties.
“I’ve definitely been looked after through these experiences, and I thank God for that,” he said. “... I’ve also learned just how fragile life really is. Every breath is a blessing for every single one of us, whether we’ve had a major medical incident or not.”
Vickers said he received phenomenal support during his bouts with blood clots — from family, friends, fans and his Michael Waltrip Racing team and sponsors. When folks reached out to him during his treatment, it meant a lot.
Focusing on the positives helped Vickers get through the rough times. He has advice for others going through medical issues.
“Try to make the most of it. Never give up. You focus ‘out the front windshield,’ so to speak, and not on what’s behind you, and focus on what you can do to control it.”
Vickers hopes others will learn from his experience and become educated about the symptoms of blood clots. Meanwhile, he and his team will continue their mission to spread the word.
“We’re really excited about Aaron’s being a partner with TreatMyClot.com to bring awareness to blood clots. It’s something that is very near and dear to me,” Vickers said, regarding the purple car he’ll drive at Fontana this month.
“On TreatMyClot.com, you can find a lot of risk (factors) and warning signs and symptoms of clotting and also a little bit about my story.”
disclaimer: Brian Vickers is a paid spokesperson for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.