On the morning of December 1, 2005, 69-year-old retired Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission employee Frank Marshall was out bowling with friends. Before the game was over, he was being rushed to Washington Adventist Hospital’s Emergency Room in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Frank’s heart had stopped beating and he was in severe hypotensive shock. But his troubles were only beginning. Despite being put on a ventilator and having CPR performed, Frank remained in full cardiac arrest. His heart could not be restarted.
Each passing second without cardiopulmonary function could have had drastic effects on his brain function, and without diagnosis, stabilization and treatment, Frank would not survive. Fortunately, in an extraordinary and valiant effort, the fast-thinking team of heart specialists at Washington Adventist Hospital placed Frank on a Percutaneous Cardiopulmonary Support (PCPS) machine, a device that served as his heart and lungs until he could be further stabilized. Washington Adventist Hospital is one of only a few hospitals in the nation that has a PCPS machine and the staff specially trained to use it.
“Mr. Marshall was essentially dead, kept alive only by the PCPS machine. We needed to diagnose and fix the condition that had caused his heart and lungs to fail, and yet his condition was so fragile at that point that the diagnostics themselves could have further worsened his condition,” said Dr. David Brill, Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory who treated Frank and placed him on the PCPS machine.
With his own heart and lungs not functioning, and on the verge of kidney failure, the PCPS machine kept Frank alive. “With the help of the PCPS machine, we were able to stabilize, diagnose and treat Mr. Marshall. We initially suspected that Frank suffered a heart attack. After several hours of efforts to maintain blood flow to vital organs and establish the correct diagnosis, we were able to confirm that Mr. Marshall had a massive blood clot in his lung arteries, a pulmonary embolism.”
After the diagnosis was established, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Bryan Steinberg, M.D., removed the clot from Frank’s pulmonary arteries.
Upon recovery, Frank was surprised to hear that he had nearly died. “I was not in pain at all. Except for the stitches, I felt ready to go home,” said Frank.
Today, Frank Marshall is fully recovered and is as busy as ever surrounded by his friends and loved ones. He and his fiancée, Wilhelmina Wells, are even planning an extended, cross-country vacation in the near future. “I am so grateful to Dr. Brill, Dr. Steinberg, and the entire medical team.”
SCAI thanks Washington Adventist Hospital and Mark Turco, M.D., FSCAI, for sharing this story.