How to save a failing heart: Cardiac specialist defeats odds, brings man back from brink of death

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Technology, education and procedures are essential when saving a heart. Cardiac specialists use state of the art knowledge to bring a failing heart back to life quickly. Sometimes, they describe it as a miracle. One Birmingham cardiologist and his patient defeated the odds and—miraculously—saved his heart.

It was a scheduled appointment. Michael Brand calmly walked into Princeton Baptist Medical Center for bypass surgery. He said the doctor told him that if he was put on the operating table, he might not come off of it alive. Cardiac specialist Dr. Mustafa Ahmed said that the medical team decided not to operate that day.

“He had no blood supply to his heart,” Dr. Ahmed remembered. “He had bypass surgery in the past. Every single bypass was closed down and had only one artery. Only one to supply the whole heart. That had a 90 percent blockage from the beginning. So it was about as bad as you can get.”

Brand was in a hospital bed for only a few minutes when the situation took a turn for the worse: he was experiencing heart failure.

“About that time, I had to holler for some help because fluid went to building up. It went to bubbling out of my mouth and I had to turn to get it to come out because I was choking,” he recalled.

“The reality of the situation is that he had no option,” Dr. Ahmed explained. “At this point you’re thinking in your head, ‘well this man needs a heart transplant, but a heart transplant doesn’t happen overnight.’”

It wasn’t long until Brand’s heart completely shut down. For about 20 minutes, he was classified as dead.

“At that point, things went downhill very quickly. He couldn’t breathe. He essentially had a feeling of drowning at that stage, we realized we’re going to have to put a breathing tube in his mouth just to keep him even stable. His lungs were full of water because of that blockage and at that point, his heart stopped,” Dr. Ahmed recalled. “We spent the next few hours opening the artery back up, and that itself was a very, very complicated procedure. We had continuous monitoring going on. We had a probe down his throat that was looking at his heart and what was great is that as the blood supply slowly started to come back, you could see his heart slowly start beating again. Zero became five, and then 10 and then 15 and then 20, so what that told us is that the last bit of blood supply was critical.”

Brand was monitored closely for 10 days and then released from the hospital. Creative action and state of the art procedures led to cardiologists saving his heart. Both Brand and Dr. Ahmed call the whole experience a true miracle.

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