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Teamwork saves young mom after sudden heart failure

Nov 7, 2019

TUCSON (Nov. 7, 2019) – Twenty-three-year old Brianna Choltko started feeling sick with flu-like symptoms before going through sudden heart failure and respiratory distress. Brianna was found unconscious on her bathroom floor by her neighbors, who then called paramedics that rushed her to Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Brianna Choltko and familyBrianna had difficulty breathing and required that she be placed on life support with a mechanical ventilator to support her lungs.

Dr. Konstantin Zubelevitskiy, is an ICU doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital who first took care of Brianna, placed an ultrasound probe on her chest and identified a very weakened heart that was functioning at 15 percent, likely due to a viral illness.

Dr. Zubelevitskiy coordinated with Dr. Chintan Patel, a Carondelet Interventional Cardiologist, to request mechanical support of her heart. Dr. Patel was able to treat and save Brianna by performing a procedure placing an artificial heart pump, called an Impella through Brianna’s right leg. Although the device was supporting the rest of her body it was suffocating the remainder of her right leg.

Dr. Patel was then able to perform an external femoral-femoral bypass and allow blood flow from her left leg to leave her body through and go into her right leg so that it would get the blood supply needed.

Brianna made a rapid neurological recovery, surprising many of the physicians and ICU nurses taking care of her since there were initial signs of neurological damage due to the lack of oxygen in her brain, physicians and nurses were unsure of what sort of recovery she would have.

Both Dr. Patel and Dr. Konstantin, the ICU nursing staff, and the cardiac catheterization lab at St. Joseph’s were able to support Brianna’s heart and lungs during recovery.

Dr. Sarah McKeever, a vascular surgeon specialist affiliated with St. Joseph’s, helped remove the Impella device from Brianna’s heart and continued to monitor her, ensuring that she would be able to walk with both legs soon.

Brianna was grateful to have her family at her bedside and lucky to have her husband, who was deployed in Kuwait, quickly rushed back so that he also could be at her bedside during her hospital stay and recovery.

“St. Joseph’s care was truly amazing, I am so grateful to have been seen here and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Brianna said.

After a full recovery, lasting about ten days, Brianna is able to function at her normal level and take care of her son.

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