Life-saving procedure developed for pulmonary emboli

A Houston-area resident is thankful for a state-of-the-art treatment at Methodist Hospital. She is beyond relieved that a surgeon was able to save her life, by performing a recently FDA-approved procedure. Multiple sclerosis has caused Makeba Charles to move around in a wheelchair. One day she got so sick, she blamed it on her illness, but that wasn't it.  

"I got out of the car and I couldn't walk - felt as if I would just fall out," explains Charles. "I called 911 and said, 'I can't breathe! I need someone to come to my house as quickly as possible.'" 

"Her oxygen was so low, she was hardly breathing," explains Dr. Carlos Bechara, Charles' vascular surgeon from Methodist Hospital.  

"They Life Flighted me to Houston," says Charles. That's when Dr. Carlos Bechara and his surgical team raced her into the operating room at Methodist Hospital to attempt to spare her life. 

"She had a potentially fatal problem - a pulmonary embolus - which is a clot that traveled to her lungs from her leg," says Dr. Bechara. "What we elected to do is go through the groin through the veins, femoral vein, up to the lungs through the heart, with wires and catheters. We saw a lot of clots on both sides of the lungs, and that's why she was having such a tough time breathing."  He threaded a hair-thin fiber into her lungs and used sound waves to deliver clot-busting medications directly into the clots to quickly dissolve them. 

"The right side of the heart is usually smaller than the left, but hers was almost three times the size as the left side because of the workload that it has to do now," explains Dr. Bechara. The procedure was a huge success. 

"Honestly you could see the joy to everyone in the room when we got that news and sure enough when we took pictures," says a smiling Dr. Bechara. "Almost all the clot was gone!  We got her off the breathing machine she was up walking in a day with no oxygen." 

Before this procedure, Dr. Bechara says they often had to give the patient a very large dose of blood thinners, which increased a patient's risk of a severe bleed somewhere else in their body.

"I feel great!," says Charles. "I have not had experiences with my breath or heart, and I pray God continues that last year I have been going on! I feel that each one of us has a purpose on earth - and I feel that because I was spared and I'm dealing with all of my issues dealing with MS that I should hold myself as a beacon to others.  Regardless what is going on with you and what you see others going through - someway they're doing it.  I'm doing it, so others should feel that there's nothing to hold them back."

Dr. Bechara wants you to know how to prevent blood clots so that you don't have to suffer from this problem! 

"If you're in a long plane ride or car ride - stop, walk, and stay hydrated!," says Dr. Bechara. "If you can't walk on the plane, tiptoe, your calf muscles push blood back to the heart and keep your circulation going. Wear compression therapy and keep yourself hydrated to prevent this,"  Plus be even more aware of the problem if you have a history of blood clots in your family.

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