Abu Dhabi: When 59-year-old Adel Mahmoud Shawqi was rushed to hospital with chest pain, he was awake, alert and conversant. But he was also experiencing an acute heart attack.
“The electrocardiogram (ECG) test was conducted in the ambulance en route to [the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi], so we knew that this was a heart attack and were prepared to mobilise the team to reopen the blockage and restore the blood flow,” said Dr. Jacques Kobersy, chair of the hospital’s Emergency Medicine Institute.
A heart attack is considered a common occurrence in an Emergency Department (ED) and is normally resolved by the hospital’s multidisciplinary team in less than 60 minutes from arrival. However, matters took a sudden turn for the worse, when the Abu Dhabi resident went into cardiac arrest.
“Shortly after arriving to the ED, Shawqi suddenly lost his pulse, stopped breathing and went into a life-threatening heart rhythm. We immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and performed multiple rounds of advanced cardiac life support with medications, chest compressions and repeated defibrillator shocks,” Dr Kobersy said.
The doctor explained that the care team managed to get a pulse back, and then the patient suffered another arrest. “This was an extraordinary case. We would restart his heart with the defibrillator shock, but then he would again lose his pulse and go into cardiac arrest. This happened repeatedly and Shawqi actually required nine shocks in all. We would not give up. Our team managed to bring this patient, who was on the cusp of death, back to life, and then continued to treat him for his heart attack,” Dr Kobersy explained.
After successfully stabilising the patient and inserting a breathing tube into his throat, the patient was brought to the cardiac catheterisation laboratory where doctors placed a stent in the blocked artery, and also inserted an intra-aortic balloon pump to help his weakened heart pump blood.
The patient was brought to the intensive care unit in critical condition, but with the combined efforts of teams in the Emergency Department, Heart and Vascular Institute, Anesthesiology Institute, and Critical Care and nursing staff, the breathing tube and heart pump were removed just a few days later, and he was able to sit up and talk to his family. He was fully recovered and able to go home within two weeks.
Shawqi, a two-time stroke survivor, said he remembers feeling like he was having another stroke when it began. “I had immense chest pain, so I asked my wife to call an ambulance. I was fine when I arrived at the hospital but then I lost consciousness,” he said. “Dr Kobersy and the entire team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have been phenomenal through my recovery. They checked up on me regularly and have been advising me on how to take care of my heart. Most of my strength is back and I can walk and eat by myself now,” Shawqi added.
He also said a lack of exercise and excessive smoking could be blamed for his poor heart condition. Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and is the leading cause of preventable deaths. He has therefore decided to turn his life around and spread awareness about heart health. “This was a very traumatic experience for my wife. I have promised her that I will stop smoking so that we can be healthy for the rest of our lives,” he said. “I would also like the community to learn from my experience and go for regular checks. People should be taking care of their heart and prioritising exercise and diet to stay healthy and fit,” Shawqi added.
According to Dr Kobersy, Shawqi made a miraculous recovery even though he was extremely sick. “Not everyone is as lucky as [he has been]. Shawqi has been given a second chance and the key takeaway is that people should not ignore their health. It is never too late to start your journey to good health,” the doctor reminded.