Wellington: Rugby great Jonah Lomu probably died from a blood clot that formed during a long-haul flight to New Zealand, one of his medics said yesterday, as plans were unveiled to honour the legendary winger with a public memorial.
Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew, who helped treat Lomu’s chronic kidney disease, said a flight-related clot was the most likely explanation for his shock death in Auckland last week aged just 40. Mayhew, a close family friend who announced the star’s death to the world, said Lomu’s kidney disease made him vulnerable to such a scenario. The player had just returned to Auckland after seeing his beloved All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup in Britain, a marathon flight, even with a stopover in Dubai.
“He returned from the UK via Dubai and appeared to be in good health before he died. We think the most likely cause was a clot on the lung which can be a complication of long distance travel. Jonah was at great risk of that happening because of his renal condition,” Mayhew told the BBC. He said Lomu, an electrifying talent, who became the game’s first global superstar, would not have known what hit him.
“I think it was instantaneous. He was unaware of what had happened. It’s just one of those tragic complications that can occur in people with chronic renal conditions,” he said. The US Center for Disease Control advises on its website that long-distance air travel can increase the risk of venous thromboembolism (a blood clot in the vein) by two-to-four times, more if there are pre-existing conditions.
Many airlines advise passengers to walk around the flight cabin or wear compression stockings to help prevent clots forming.