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MAGAZINE / Sept-Oct 2007 / The Lainie Kazan Interview

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The Lainie Kazan Interview

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Today's Caregiver magazine Sept/Oct 2007

You probably know Tony award winning actress Lainie Kazan from her many roles on screen, stage, and television; in particular her role as the bride’s mother in the mega-hit “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  But I bet there were a few things about Lanie that you did not know. Did you know that her big break on stage came as Barbra Streisand’s understudy in the original Broadway production of the musical “Funny Girl” and that she and Barbra went to the same high school or that she was in the Frank Sinatra movie, “Lady in Cement” or even that she was named the “Queen of Brooklyn” at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival in 1997?  I bet you also didn’t know that Lainie has long been a leading supporter for those living with AIDS or that she almost died from complications of DVT and has become an advocate for DVT awareness.  What is DVT, and why is it so important to you and your loved ones to learn about it?  Read  Editor-in -Chief, Gary Barg’s interview with Lainie to find out.

Gary Barg:: 
        You know, as a person who flies a lot, I’ve heard about DVT over the years; but now it seems that DVT affects a lot more people than commonly thought and affects more people than just long-distance travelers.
Lanie Kazan:
    DVT affects roughly 3 million people each year, and 300 thousand die annually from a DVT complication called pulmonary embolism. That’s more than breast cancer and AIDs combined.

GB:        What is DVT and what are some of the risk factors for it?
       DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, and the risk factors for a DVT blood clot include restricted mobility because of hospitalization or due to acute illness or certain surgeries such as hip replacement or knee replacement surgery. If you’ve had a prior DVT like me, or age and obesity come into play, these can also be factors. If you’ve had chemotherapy, heart surgery, respiratory diseases or if you smoke or use birth control pills, or even being pregnant can be triggers for DVT.

GB:        I didn’t know that. When were you diagnosed with DVT?
        I was diagnosed in 1973 or 1975. I had a pretty minor fracture of my foot and ripped a lot of cartilage and ligaments, so there was a lot of blood, which coagulated in my calf and moved up to my lungs; which is what happens when you have a PE (pulmonary embolism). I was on my way to do a concert tour of Australia and the next thing I knew, I was feeling like I was getting the flu. So here I had this cast on my leg and had flu-like symptoms. I called my doctor and explained that I’d broken my foot, but was feeling flu-like symptoms, and he asked that I come to his office immediately. I was put into the hospital and I had a pulmonary embolism in both lungs.

GB:      What were your treatments like?
       I was in the hospital for about a month. It took me years to recover, to be perfectly honest with you. I was on blood thinners for about two years, and I had to keep my foot raised a lot. Believe it or not, I eventually had hip replacement surgery because I had favored the leg for so long. I was at greater risk for DVT when I had the surgery.

GB:        Because you had previously had DVT?
        Yes. The good news is that the number of DVT blood clots can be reduced. I want to share my experience and encourage people to know what their stats are, what their risks are; so I’m on a campaign to increase awareness.

GB:        I think that’s so very important. How do you think we can lower our risks and our loved one’s risks for DVT?
       It’s important for people to have the right kind of discussion with their healthcare professional to find out when they are at increased risk. Their risk increases if they smoke a lot, if they are going to be immobilized in any way, or have restricted mobility, or chemotherapy.

GB:        I read some place where you said, “Just keep moving; you’ve got to help your doctor.” I love that point.
       I think an active, healthy life combined with having those conversations with your healthcare provider really help you, and help to discover if you are at risk, and what to do about it. If people are curious, they can log onto the website

GB:        What should a caregiver be looking for if you have a loved one who has become immobilized due to accident or illness?
       Usually if there’s a pain in a lower extremity, in the leg, or the calf, and if it has progressed to pulmonary embolism, you’ll feel these flu-like symptoms.

GB:        I find this fascinating because we’re not just talking about the leg implications, but also about the lungs, too.
       Well, the leg has the DVT, the deep vein thrombosis. When it moves up from the calf to the lung, then it becomes a pulmonary embolism and this becomes the real complication. So the DVT is serious, but the complication can be a killer. It’s quite staggering, you know, because so many people don’t know what DVT is.

GB:        What would be the most important piece of advice you would like to leave with family caregivers?
       If people feel that they are at risk, they need to have a serious discussion with their healthcare provider. I have so many people who come up to me and ask if they think I might think they have a DVT or a PE. I’m not a doctor, and I really can’t tell them whether they are at risk or not, but I think their physician can; or they can go online and learn more about DVT. 

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