Lt. Col. Dave Hofstetter, 68, is an avid bicyclist, former lacrosse player, and motocross rider who completed dozens of sky-diving missions during his two decades of service as a helicopter pilot for the US Army.
Now retired from the military, he still takes an annual bicycle trip through locales in France, Italy, or Argentina with a dozen of his former West Point classmates and their spouses. Dave and his wife, Corrine, a flight attendant for Delta, enjoy the challenge and the camaraderie. "It's not the Tour de France," he says. "We ride about 20 miles a day, interrupted frequently by beer and wine stops."
Due to Hofstetter's athletic and adventurous nature, he's put a lot of wear and tear on his body. He's had 15 surgeries, including six hip replacements, five shoulder operations, and two double-disk back surgeries.
Despite his numerous surgeries, Hofstetter says, he's not someone who goes to the doctor for every cough or cold. "It's the military mindset — tough it out," he says. But when he experienced an irritating cough over a few weeks that wouldn't go away, he decided to have it checked out. "I told Corrine, let's go to Emory Johns Creek ER, it's just around the corner from our house in Alpharetta," he says. "They can pull up a list of my current medications. I expected to get a prescription and go home."
"At first, I thought it was pneumonia, but tests came back inconclusive, so I reviewed his health history and decided we should do a full battery of tests, including looking at his lungs." —Dr. Mark Hogan, Emory Johns Creek Hospital
Dr. Mark Hogan was on duty, and remembers Hofstetter well. "At first, I thought it was pneumonia, but tests came back inconclusive," he says. "So I reviewed his health history and decided we should do a full battery of tests, including a CT angiogram of his lungs."
Hofstetter was surprised when they came back into the room and handed him a hospital gown. "After they did all the tests, they came back in and said, 'You're not going anywhere,'" he says.
Can you guess, careful readers, what was discovered during the tests that called for Hofstetter's immediate admission to the hospital?
Hofstetter had a pulmonary embolism in each of his lungs. These blood clots, which often travel from elsewhere in the body, lodge themselves in the arteries of the lungs and can block blood flow. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and a cough, but most pulmonary embolisms are subclinical. "Most people never know they have them," Hogan says. "It's a case of look and you will find." Nevertheless, if a clot is large or if there are multiple clots, they can be fatal.
Hofstetter's existing clots were dissolved with blood thinners. He was checked thoroughly for blood clots elsewhere and got the all clear. "I had never had any issues with blood clots before," he says. "They broke these two up, and everything was fine and dandy."
He became a Patient Family Advocate for Emory Healthcare, and is looking forward to his next bicycle trip. "I am able to do all the things I do," he says, "because of what the medical professionals are able to do."