NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A mini artificial heart pump that just received approval for use in Japan, helped save a life that same week in Nacogdoches. The device relieves a heart during or following a heart attack.
For two days, Maria Castillo had arm and leg cramps, sleepiness, and a sensation she never felt before ...
"Pressure. Pressure," Castillo said as she illustrated by holding her chest.
A week ago Sunday, Maria showed up at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital's emergency room, the same hospital where she works. Staff immediately knew their co-worker was having a massive heart attack. Maria was resuscitated twice.
"I'm sorry," Castillo said after she got emotional.
When routine treatments failed to stabilize Castillo, Dr. Shanmugam Uthamalingam, an interventional cardiologist who understandably goes by the shorter nickname Dr. Utham, turned to the Abiomed Impella, a mini-artificial heart pump. It worked.
"The heart function is so declining that if this pump could have not been placed she would have not survived," Uthamalingam said.
The Impella heart pump is used most often during stent placement for heart support. It's minimally invasive surgical placement in a femoral artery lends it well for emergency use, too.
"A small nick in the right side of the groin and then you put a small plastic tube similar to an IV, but a little bit bigger plastic tube that goes into the vessel," Uthamalingam said.
Four hands are better than two for its placement, so Uthamalingam called in his colleague, Dr. Vijaya Pokala. Castillo's condition improved quickly and dramatically.
"Definitely. Everything came back," Pokala said. "In fact, the blood pressure was 50-60, come in 200-210."
Uthamalingam calls it a miracle device.
"I feel very satisfied," Uthamalingam said. "And I think that time when the patient walks out of the door of the hospital that you're giving a life back."
Maria Castillo is set to go home less than a week after she almost died, but not before saying one thing.
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," Castillo whispered in a voice full of emotion.