Saving a Heart: Research and skill important in saving every patient

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) -– What started as a regular check-up turned into a concerning heart murmur for 39-year-old Jason Philpot.

Cardiologists discovered a series of major complications: a pacemaker, severe leaky valves, two open heart surgeries and a life-threatening aneurysm led Philpot to require a heart transplant.

“Every time my heart beat, you could see what looked like my heart jumping out of my chest,” he said.

Princeton Baptist Medical Center Cardiac Specialist Dr. Mustafa Ahmed tells CBS42 News that the procedure was the riskiest he had ever done.

“He’s a Jehovah’s witness. When you operate on a Jehovah’s witness it’s always much more complicated,” Ahmed said. “You can’t lose a lot of blood because you cannot give transfusions.”

So, Ahmed took a creative approach.

“What we can do is take coils to kind of wall off or close off the aneurysm to stop allowing blood to flow into it,” Ahmed said.

The doctor met with Jason, and he immediately agreed to the procedure, which took 21 hours to complete.

“We wanted to fix the entire aneurysm. By the end, that thing was so densely packed with more coils than anyone has ever heard of, but we were satisfied,” Ahmed said. “If a clot would have formed and we would have had to take out the whole thing, we were confident of that.  We had done what it took.”

The coils that saved Philpot’s life are the result of tireless work on the scientific side of the health profession.

“When you think about the science behind these coils that go in, it sends blood, expands, the science behind this is so advanced,” Ahmed said. “That’s only even possible because of years of years of research and dedication.”

Jason could barely contain his feelings when he knew the procedure had worked.

“When I woke up, I was ecstatic with the fact that I could open my eyes and I could see my family hear my family and even touch myself and say ‘Hey, I’m alive’,” Philpot said.

Ahmed calls the experience one of the rarest and largest aneurysms ever recorded and repaired.  The research to make it possible came from the American Heart Association.

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