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On World Thrombosis Day, An ESPN Executive Shares His Health Scare, Recovery Story

VP, Digital Media Programming, John Lasker suffered a blood clot in his left leg that hospitalized him in July

John Lasker, his wife Denise and four daughters: Emma, Abby, Delaney and Kaelyn (John Lasker/ESPN)

Today, Oct. 13, is World Thrombosis Day, which focuses attention on the condition of thrombosis or the formation or presence of a blood clot within a vessel.

For Vice President, Digital Media Programming and Priority Champion for Direct-to-Consumer, John Lasker, this day has special meaning.

He experienced a significant health scare this summer. Lasker tells Front Row about his experience, support from ESPN, and why he feels it is important to raise awareness.

It’s a very serious, scary, and life-threatening condition that seemingly came out of nowhere. In retrospect, there were signs in the weeks leading up to July 27 that I failed to recognize. – VP, Digital Media Programming, John Lasker, on his battle with thrombosis

Take us back to your medical crisis. What happened?
On Monday, July 27, I was admitted to the UCONN Health Emergency room in Farmington, Conn., after experiencing severe chest pains and shortness of breath for the two days prior.

After a number of tests, the doctors discovered that I suffered a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot in my lower left leg, which caused a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) in both my lungs, including a pulmonary infarction in my left lung.

It’s a very serious, scary, and life-threatening condition that seemingly came out of nowhere. In retrospect, there were signs in the weeks leading up to July 27 that I failed to recognize. I spent three days in the hospital. Now, a little over two months removed from the episode, I am progressing well with the expectation I will make a full recovery.

” . . . the outpouring of concern and support from Burke, Russell, my ESPN Programming team, and colleagues was nothing short of incredible. – Lasker

How did ESPN support you?
At the moment I recognized the seriousness of my issue, my wife Denise reached out to my immediate boss, [EVP, Programming Acquisitions & Scheduling] Burke Magnus and my Disney Streaming Services colleague [EVP & GM ESPN+] Russell Wolff to let them know I was in the hospital and being treated.

From that point, the outpouring of concern and support from Burke, Russell, my ESPN Programming team, and colleagues was nothing short of incredible. My wife Denise stayed in daily contact with the ESPN team, who were at the ready to provide any support needed. Understanding the stress put on my wife and four girls by the scary circumstance, my colleagues and team rallied and delivered various items.

ESPN executive John Lasker is back at work months after his life-threatening battle with DVT. (Denise Lasker/ESPN)

There were popsicles for the girls – hand-delivered to the house by [Vice President, Programming and Acquisitions] Carol Stiff, DoorDash gift cards, and even a “cameo” personalized video from New York Mets legend Doc Gooden wishing me well.

I can’t express how safe, supported, and loved my family and I felt over those days and weeks. When we say the people at ESPN are what makes ESPN the special place that it is, this type of human kindness, caring, and support for each other is exactly what we mean.

Was it hard to take a step back and focus on your health?
In my over 21 years at ESPN, this was by far the longest time I have taken away. As difficult as it was to be sidelined as suddenly as I was, and as much as I wanted to be back with my team and colleagues, I also came to understand that focusing 100 percent on my physical and mental wellbeing was by far the most important thing I could do for myself, my family and ESPN.

Feeling better, I attempted to come back the Monday after being discharged from the hospital. I quickly realized it was way too soon, and I had more important work to focus on – recovery. I am now back and engaged on a normal schedule.

I had no known risk factors that would have made me a likely candidate for a deadly blood clot in my specific case. If it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone. – Lasker

What made you decide you wanted to share your story?
Since my incident, I have learned a lot about blood clots, DVT, and PE. The most troubling thing I have learned is its indiscriminate nature, the alarming amount of people affected yearly, the high mortality rate, and, despite all of this, the incredibly low awareness and preventative tools available to patients and doctors.

I have made it my mission to do what I can to share my story and work with the medical community and foundations focused in this area to raise awareness and save lives.

I had no known risk factors that would have made me a likely candidate for a deadly blood clot in my specific case. If it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone.

If I had recognized any of the signs (fatigue, shortness of breath, lower leg muscle strain) for what they were leading up to July 27, I might have been able to address before my condition became as serious as it was.

How are you feeling now?
I am feeling much better. I am truly blessed to have survived, considering the circumstances of my incident. I am looking forward to making a full recovery, playing an impactful role at ESPN, and hopefully using my experience to increase awareness and save lives.

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