Photo-Features helped Richard tell his wife’s tragic story in the Daily Mirror to raise awareness of DVT. You can read Richards full story below.
DVT holiday horror: The mum who went abroad and never came home
Richard and Marie Arme were thrilled to be taking their first holiday together since their children left home. The dream trip signalled an exciting new chapter in their lives.
But as they cruised around the Aegean Sea, neither could have predicted the tragedy that lay ahead. Just days into the trip Marie, 46, collapsed and died while sightseeing after suffering a pulmonary embolism, caused by deep vein thrombosis.
Tragically she was one of 30,000 Brits to die from the condition last year. DVT is often referred to as ‘economy class syndrome’ because experts believe it is caused when legs remain still for a long time, for example restricted by the seat in front on the flight.
A recent report revealed one traveller a month is killed by a blood clot within minutes of landing at Heathrow Airport.
This year Susan Mavir-Ross, 42, from Wrexham, died after a flight from San Francisco and last October, 28-year-old Emma Christofferson, from South Wales, died after a 23-hour flight from Australia.
But DVT can also be triggered by long car and train journeys. DVT expert professor Sam Machin of University College London Hospital explains: “If you sit in a fixed position for a prolonged period there is a risk and cases of DVT have been recorded.”
Celebrity victims include tennis star Serena Williams and cricket player Andrew Flintoff, who developed DVT while he was recovering from a knee operation.
Now Richard, 48, a former banker from Braintree, Essex, is desperate to warn travellers of the danger signs ahead of the holiday season.
“Marie was a nurse and she didn’t recognise the symptoms so what hope have others got?” he says.
“There will be thousands of British people preparing for their holidays and I don’t want to alarm them, just arm them with the knowledge of this silent killer. It might just save their life.”
DVT kills 30,000 people a year in the UK and those most at risk include the obese, patients recovering from operations, women on the pill and those who suffer from blood clotting conditions.
But an estimated 2,500 cases will be found in those making long journeys.
Richard believes many more lives could be saved with increased awareness. He launched a poster campaign, which is being spread via email.
“I know for a fact one life has already been saved because a woman saw it and went straight to her GP. She had been suffering leg pain following a flight from America. Sure enough it was DVT.
“Now she wants to visit Marie’s grave to thank her for saving her life. Marie was a nurse so she would be proud she is saving lives even after her death.”
DVT happens when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the calf. Smaller clots will disperse naturally, but larger ones might block the vein, causing swelling, pain and change in skin colour. The condition becomes fatal if a piece of the clot breaks away and travels to the lungs.
Richard believes his wife was already suffering from DVT when they started their holiday. Snaps on board their cruise liner before she died show Marie wearing a bandage on her lower leg.
Richard explains: “Marie and I had driven our daughter to start a degree course in Falmouth, Cornwall. It had been a long uncomfortable journey and she’d also suffered a fall on the way back at a service station.”
The pain she was in was originally put down to a sprained ankle, but on reflection, Richard thinks the long car journey – more than 16 hours there and back – may have triggered DVT.
The couple flew to Corfu a few weeks later on October 1 to join the cruise ship. “Marie had always told me Santorini was the most beautiful place on earth and she wanted me to see it,” recalls Richard.
“Both our kids had left home and it felt like a new chapter for us.”
Day two was spent revisiting their honeymoon location in Corinth, part of the Peloponnese Islands.
“Marie was short of breath and said it felt like asthma but we were both a little unfit and joked we’d have to shape up,” he says.
The next day they docked in Santorini – famous for its 600 steps often dubbed the Stairway to Heaven.
Richard says: “Marie said I had to experience the real beauty of Santorini by walking down them. I asked if she felt fit enough with her bandaged leg and she insisted she did.”
The couple had enjoyed a perfect morning posing for pictures before making their way back down the steps to the ship. Only as they made their descent Marie complained of feeling hot and dizzy.
“It was nearing midday and the sun was hot so we found a little white-washed grotto. I sat her in the shade to cool down. I thought she was dehydrated so I asked passers-by for water,” he says.
Marie was now complaining of breathlessness again and worried Richard wanted to get medical attention on the ship.
He asked a local tour guide if they could borrow his donkey to go to port but Marie collapsed.
An English doctor on holiday ran to help and they moved Marie back into the shade, but suddenly she complained that she couldn’t see and collapsed once again.
Marie stopped breathing and the doctor fought to revive her for 45 minutes. Richard was in shock as his wife was pronounced dead.
“I was in utter disbelief that this could happen,” he recalls. “Marie’s body was taken away and I was alone without her on what was supposed to be our dream holiday. It was a nightmare.”
After breaking the news to their children, Charlie, 21, and Georgina, 18, on the phone, he flew home the next day.
“It was like a bad dream. One minute we were having a fantastic time, the next she was gone. I looked at the holiday pictures, one taken less than an hour before she died and it just seemed impossible.”
After a post-mortem, Richard was stunned when told the cause of death was pulmonary embolism caused by DVT.
“I hadn’t really heard about it before. But when I started researching it all the signs were there, we just didn’t know them.”
On October 23 – exactly 25 years to the day after they met, Marie’s funeral was held at a crematorium in Braintree.
“She was my life, my soulmate and my best friend. I didn’t know how I would carry on without her. Raising awareness is all I can do to stop another family experiencing this pain. If I can save other lives by sharing her story that is what I will do.”