Chris Horner is recovering after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung. The RadioShack rider was admitted to a Bend, Oregon, hospital Sunday evening after feeling a sharp pain in his side earlier in the day.
American racer Michael Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) suffered a similar ailment in 2006 and said Monday that it is a scary time for Horner, but that a return to racing should be possible. Friedman reached out to Horner’s fiancée Megan Elliot and said he had been in frequent contact throughout the morning.
“I told her everything’s going to be OK, but it’s a stressful and scary situation,” Friedman told VeloNews. “He’s really quite lucky. When a clot moves, there are three places it can go: the heart — bad, the brain — bad, the lung — not as bad.”
Horner rushed to the hospital Sunday night after pain in his abdomen increased steadily during the day. “On the way, I started to have some serious pain — some of the worst pain I have ever had in my life, which is saying something!” he wrote in his blog early Monday morning.
Friedman suffered a pulmonary embolism in 2006 following surgery to treat a saddle sore. Like Horner, Friedman’s clot came on suddenly.
“You can’t imagine what it feels like. For me it was like having a knife stuck in my chest and turned, all the way to my back,” said Friedman. “I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t feel my left arm and had this piercing chest pain.”
In Pittsburgh after a cross-country drive, Friedman was three minutes from the university hospital and went immediately. He said four factors likely worked to produce the clot: the surgery, the drive, dehydration and a previously undiagnosed clotting disorder. Horner was largely on a schedule of rest and recuperation after returning to Bend following a stage 9 crash that ended his Tour de France last month. He had just begun training again over the weekend. Friedman suggested that the clot could be a result of Horner’s crash.
Horner wrote in his blog that he began blood-thinning medication Sunday night. Friedman used blood-thinning Coumadin for six months following his diagnosis and coupled with his clotting disorder, the medication made riding extremely risky.
“If I had crashed, I would have had a high risk of death or serious injury,” said Friedman, who rode conservatively, even going as far as installing an orange flag on his bike, throughout the spring of 2007.
For Horner, a season that promised a shot at the Tour de France podium after his strongest spring ever is likely over. He wrote Monday morning that, “Right now I’m getting ready for the start of my blood thinning treatment, and then I guess I figure out the rest from here.”
Friedman said his thoughts were with Horner and Elliot.
“I really feel for him,” said Friedman. “It can be scary. There are a lot of question asked, and you really question your career.”
Attempts to contact Horner were not immediately returned.