UAE: Expat survives two heart attacks, stroke in few days

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(Image used for illustrative purpose) Photo: File
(Image used for illustrative purpose) Photo: File

Abu Dhabi - Doctors placed him on veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine for eight days


Saman Haziq

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Published: Tue 26 Oct 2021, 5:58 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Oct 2021, 6:12 PM

An Abu Dhabi resident had a miraculous escape from death after he suffered not one but two heart attacks and a stroke in few days.

Indian national Hari Kuttappan, 58, is diabetic and has a family history of heart disease, but he always led a healthy life where he would ensure he ate a nutritious diet and exercised daily.

He also would undergo a medical assessment every two months.

In 2014, during one such checkup, Kuttappan had a stent put into one of his blocked arteries after which he went back to his daily routine of work and exercise without a problem.

Early this year, Kuttappan was diagnosed with another blocked artery, which was again treated with stent insertion. But a few days after the invasive procedure, he collapsed in his bathroom, and after regaining consciousness threw up a little. His wife called an ambulance who took him to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to be treated for his first mild heart attack.

Kuttappan was recovering well and was ready to be discharged when suddenly he experienced a simultaneous stroke and heart attack. Doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi rushed him to the coronary angiography suite, re-opened his heart artery, and placed him on a veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) machine for eight days. He was in the hospital for a month, until April 22, for recovery.

Explaining the case, Dr Hussam Ghalib, staff physician in the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said, “The stent that we had placed in his heart to keep the artery open had closed off again and he immediately suffered another heart attack within days of the first one. This is a rare and almost always fatal event.

“Because his heart muscle had undergone two successive heart attacks and was therefore extremely weak, he was in a state called ‘pre-cardiac-arrest’ which means that he was minutes away from immediate death. Therefore, at the time of re-opening his heart arteries, our multidisciplinary team decided to pre-emptively place him on a VA-ECMO machine, which is an artificial heart that would pump blood to the rest of the organs while his own heart recovered. His heart recovered and he came off of the VA-ECMO machine within eight days and was discharged from hospital (to continue rehabilitation) within a month," said Dr Ghalib.

“Kuttappan had two successive major heart attacks and a stroke. More importantly, he got very close to having a full cardiac arrest (which is when the heart stops). It is the medical equivalent of a miracle that he is alive,” he added.

After he came off ECMO, the patient was sent to Amana for rehabilitation and to regain mobility. The patient has recovered fully and has gone back to his daily routine. He says that he “feels reborn”.

Talking about the reason for the recurrence of the attacks in his case, Dr Ghalib said it is hard to tell because he did not have any unhealthy habits nor did he stop taking his medications. “However, we often see such outcomes in patients who are unfit and have uncontrolled diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Sometimes patients cannot afford their heart medications or are not disciplined in taking them. Some do not seek regular heart health check-ups. Unfortunately, because of these reasons, we are increasingly seeing patients as young as 30- 40 years of age with heart diseases and heart attacks at the hospital.”


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Kuttappan is now doing well and the hospital staff is following up with him in the hospital’s outpatient clinic.

“He is walking on his own now and does not require any support. He has to continue to take his medications and lead a healthy lifestyle, with a good diet and regular exercise,” Dr Ghalib said.

Kuttappan said, “I owe my life to my care team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. They looked after me and my family and I feel like I have been reborn. I know that I will not be able to do the same strenuous activities and exercises that I used to do before the heart attacks. But I follow a programme given to me by my doctors, and I eat healthy [food] and go for walks daily to maintain my health.”

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