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Doctors describe woman as ‘a miracle’ after surviving open-heart surgery

Heart Health | Listen to your heart
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:39 PM EST
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) - February is a time to focus on your heart health.

Symptoms of heart disease aren’t always obvious. Most times, heart disease is known as the silent killer.

Every day when Patsy Howell steps foot into Pikeville Medical Center, this nurse practitioner helps to save lives.

“I was healthy. I exercised regularly and ate right,” Howell said.

Little did she know two years ago, it would be her needing life-saving care.

“Patsy is a miracle,” said Dr. Dermot Halpin. “When she came to me, she was critically ill.”

After minor surgery, Howell noticed she felt short of breath.

Her family called 911, but she doesn’t remember much after that.

“It went downhill from there until I was off the ventilator about 11 days later,” Howell said.

Dr. Halpin said Howell had developed a pulmonary embolism.

It happens when a tiny piece of debris travels through an individual’s bloodstream and gets stuck in an artery in their lung.

In Howell’s case, the debris was part of a blood clot.

Dr. Halpin says once they reviewed the echocardiogram, they knew they had to perform open-heart surgery right away. He said Howell only had a few hours to live.

“When I took out the blood clot, we got out of a third to half of the cup full of clot out there,” Dr. Halpin said.

Saving Howell’s life, the pair stood together reviewing her echo two years later.

With a lot of years ahead, Howell is putting her mended heart to work as an advocate for others.

“It goes to show the healthiest person could be impacted. Make sure you get checked for clotting disorders and follow up with your physician, regularly,” Howell said.

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