Darlene M Pulmonary Embolism

“This was a miracle, and I want the world to know, I am eternally thankful, words cannot express, they saved my life."

As it was for most, 2020 was a year to remember for Darlene McCann. While it did not start out as she hoped, she ended the year feeling lucky and blessed. Not only did Darlene contract COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, leaving her with lingering symptoms but she also suffered complications from a prior surgery and found herself in the emergency department (ED) at Saint Barnabas Medical Center gasping for air.

The attending physicians in the ED moved swiftly, recognizing that Darlene had extremely low blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat. A cat scan of her chest showed a few large blood clots in both of her lungs and a pulmonary embolism.

“Typically, you can treat blood clots with blood thinners, but because of the smart thinking of the ED physician, she received an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart, which showed her heart was really struggling and under strain. The ED physicians immediately contacted the hospital’s heart surgeons, ultimately saving her life,” said Frederic Sardari, MD, Vice Chair of Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

Upon reviewing Darlene’s case, Dr. Sardari determined she crucially needed surgery to support her heart. With the help of his colleague, Jesus Gomez-Abraham, MD, a heart and lung transplant surgeon at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, they operated on Darlene and placed her on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), to stabilize her so her heart could rest and recover.

Thankfully, Darlene quickly stabilized and a few hours later, she was transferred to Newark Beth Israel, where she continued to rest and recover for several days. Dr. Gomez-Abraham continued to monitor Darlene until she was ready for vascular surgeon, Cindy Sturt, MD, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, to inject a medication to help dissolve her blood clots called tissue plasminogen activator.

“A day later, she slowly woke up from her anesthesia and we were able to take her off the ECMO and her heart was back and strong. This was an incredible success story because of the amazing coordination between the ED physicians and heart and vascular surgeons. The coordination between both hospitals and heart and vascular surgeons saved her life. Being able to save a life is what makes our jobs so meaningful,” said Jesus Gomez-Abraham, MD.

As for Darlene, she is feeling good and is immeasurably grateful. “This was a miracle, and I want the world to know, I am eternally thankful, words cannot express, they saved my life. My family said they were kept abreast of my progress and both hospitals were great, starting with Saint Barnabas Medical Center to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. I believe that a higher power worked through the doctors and nurses. It was an absolute miracle. I feel so blessed and will never be able to thank them enough, but will try to everyday,” said Darlene McCann.’

To connect with one of New Jersey’s top cardiac specialists, visit rwjbh.org/heart.