ANN ARBOR, MI — April Hogan suffered more than 25 cardiac arrests about 18 months ago.
She had a major blockage in the left coronary arteries of her heart, a condition known as acute left main thrombosis. Most patients in his condition would not survive, said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Ashraf Abou el ela of the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
“We don’t usually see these (types of) patients,” he said. “They basically drop dead. Somehow, this patient made it to the hospital.
Amazingly, 39-year-old Hogan from Ypsilanti is still alive today. This is thanks to the work of Abou el ela and the modern cardiovascular treatments available at the University of Michigan Health System, she said.
“I wouldn’t be here today without Michigan Medicine,” Hogan said.
Hogan was told she was having heart issues in 2021, but one day in July she said she felt hot and out of breath.
“Nothing hurt,” she said. “My heart didn’t hurt and I had no pain. I felt really dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. I never would have guessed that I was having a heart attack.
Hogan was first taken by her husband, Andre Smith, to Trinity Health Ann Arbor Hospital. When doctors there realized the severity of her condition, she said she was rushed by ambulance to Michigan Medicine.
When she woke up three days later, Hogan said doctors told her she had suffered 25 cardiac arrests, adding that it was possible she had suffered as many as 35.
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The solution that saved his life is known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. It’s a process where blood is routed to a machine that oxygenates it before pumping it to the rest of the body’s vital organs, Michigan Medicine officials said.
In short, ECMO allows failing hearts to rest with the help of the machine. In Hogan’s case, it gave Abou el ela and his fellow doctors time to find a longer-term solution, he said.
“When someone goes into cardiac arrest, especially as many times as she has, we have to understand a lot of things,” he said. “Does the brain work? Will the kidney work? So once we started ECMO and supported the heart, it saved us time to evaluate it for advanced heart failure surgical therapies.
The final solution was an LVAD, or left ventricular assist device, which improved circulation in the body, Abou el ela said. It kept Hogan alive as she sat on a waiting list for a new heart.
“We were able to keep the rest of the body functioning like kidneys, liver, lungs,” said Abou el ela. “And we kept them fit long enough to have open-heart surgery.”
Hogan woke up three days later, both literally and in the sense that she had to change the way she lived her life.
“It made me realize a lot of things – to pay more attention to my health,” she said.
Life with an LVAD kept Hogan mostly in her house, she said. She had to carry the device with her, along with batteries and spare parts in a bag wherever she went.
“I was really depressed about it,” she said. “Very isolated. »
She quit drinking and smoking, she said, because it “started it all” with her heart problems. In fact, she said she had to sign a contract promising to quit smoking in order to receive a new heart.
In early August, Hogan skipped the waiting list for a heart transplant due to an infection in his LVAD. The operation was successful and she returned to her retail job and began to live part of the life she had before her cardiac arrests.
“I’m starting to pick up the pace,” Hogan said, adding that she’s now exercising and eating healthy, avoiding cookies.
Bringing Hogan to this place “took a village,” Abou el ela said, crediting his surgery team, as well as the organ harvesting and transplant teams. His recovery is now the best – uneventful and smooth, he said.
Two years ago, Hogan said she didn’t even know she had a heart condition. Now she plans to live the rest of her life fully aware of this, determined to be healthy.
“It confused me. It scared me,” she said. “But now I’m just trying to carry on and maintain my health better.”
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