When 65-year-old José C. woke up one day with chest pains and shortness of breath, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do. Worse yet, he was trying to make decisions alone. After talking to his daughter, Leslie, on the phone, she confirmed that something was wrong and called 911 on his behalf. The 911 operators assured Leslie that if José needed to be transported to a hospital, they would let her know—and they did. The paramedics arrived, took him to PIH Health Downey Hospital, and within 30 minutes of his arrival, José already had an x-ray that identified a large blood clot in his lungs.
“This was a very serious situation,” said Yong Park MD, PIH Health vascular and interventional radiologist. “His blood pressure was dropping, his heart was working overtime and he had a large pulmonary embolus (blood clot) on the ‘saddle’ that divides the two lungs. This type of clot can be life-threatening because if the embolus moves, it can completely cut off the blood supply, leading to sudden death.” The medical team immediately took José to a special procedures room, where they performed a bilateral pulmonary angiogram and mechanical thrombectomy. The angiogram (an imaging test using X-rays, a small catheter and a special dye) enabled the doctors to see inside the arteries. The doctors then performed a mechanical thrombectomy, an emergency procedure used to aspirate and physically remove the large blood clot from the lungs. After the procedure, José was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where he was kept overnight and given a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a unique protein therapy used to dissolve any remaining smaller clots. Several days later, José was stable enough to go home.
After several weeks of continued recovery, José was healthy, but unable to return to work because of his physically demanding job as a shop foreman for a welding company. José retired—just one year earlier than planned. “Today, my dad is doing just fine, he’s enjoying retirement and beginning to travel with my mom more,” said Leslie. “We’re all so grateful for the care he received from Dr. Park and the whole team at PIH Health Downey Hospital. I know the PIH Health team saved my dad’s life. He feels very lucky to be alive.”