N.C. doctor helps treat space station astronaut’s blood clot

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WRAL/CNN) - NASA had its first blood clot case in space. There was no protocol, so they contacted a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill doctor for his expertise.

NASA contacted Dr. Stephan Moll at UNC-Chapel Hill to help treat an International Space Station astronaut's blood clot. (Source: WRAL via CNN)

"So I picked up the phone and NASA was on the phone and said it was urgent,” said Dr. Stephan Moll.

As a kid, Moll wanted to be an astronaut, so he was a little moon-eyed.

"It was surprising. It was an honor. I was curious to see where that would lead,” he said.

It would lead to the International Space Station, where an astronaut had a blood clot.

Moll is a star when it comes to his blood clot expertise, having been published in medical journals.

For privacy reasons, the astronaut was not identified, but the clot was found in the jugular vein.

This was the first blood clot case in space, and NASA had no protocol.

“All the decisions that had to be made were best guesses,” said Moll.

The doctor couldn’t help but ask if NASA would send him to the station to examine the patient himself.

“So I should really be taken up there,” he said, fishing for an invite. “And their response was, we’ll see what we can do and we’ll get back to you.”

Moll remained earthbound while consulting a team of NASA doctors. If the clot weren't treated, it could spread to the lungs or brain and become far more serious.

The typical treatment on earth is blood thinners, but how would they work in zero gravity?

“I needed to weigh the risk-benefit of starting a blood thinner or not using a blood thinner,” Moll said.

He and the team agreed to put the astronaut on blood thinners with Moll directing the dosage. The space station had only a limited supply, but the treatment worked.

Moll even had a phone call from his patient.

"My wife picked up and it was the International Space Station, and she handed the phone to me and saying there is someone from outer space who wants to talk to you,” said Dr. Moll.

It was enough to make a well-grounded doctor feel on top of the world.

The astronaut is now back here on Earth and is doing well.

Copyright 2020 WRAL via CNN. All rights reserved.

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