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An Unconquerable Will to Live and a Medical Team Determined to Defy the Odds

Never lose hope. Never.

Clifford Green, his family, doctors and caregivers did not. 

They never gave up. Not after 60 minutes of CPR  following a massive heart attack. Not after five surgeries and eight weeks in the ICU complicated by a brain hemorrhage, renal failure, and a bleeding colon.

“Most patients don’t survive 15 minutes of CPR, let alone a full hour,” said Dr. Vivek Patel, a cardiac surgeon at  St. Luke’s Health-The Woodlands and a critical member of the multidisciplinary team that cared for Clifford when he arrived at the emergency room.  

It was 3 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2023, when Patricia Green woke up to loud screams coming from her living room. It was 59-year-old Clifford, her husband of 38 years, who was on the floor writhing in pain. “He was not very coherent. He couldn't really talk to me.  He was moaning and groaning. He wasn’t clutching his chest or anything, but he was sweaty,” she recalls. 

EMS arrived within minutes and called ahead to St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands with instructions to prepare for a massive heart attack patient. They rushed him straight to the hospital’s cath lab where Interventional Cardiologist Shareez Peerbhai, MD was waiting. “As soon as we got him on the cath lab table, he lost pulse and his heart stopped,” Dr. Peerbhai recalls. The medical team began CPR. 

“It is not every patient that can survive 60 minutes of CPR,” Dr. Patel says. “The EMS team and hospital team did an outstanding job caring for him, including performing effective CPR. And Mr. Green had an amazing will to live.”

Following placement of ECMO (heart-lung machine) by Dr. Patel and the surgical team in the cath lab, Dr. Peerbhai was able to gain access to Clifford’s right coronary artery which was 100 percent blocked. Dr. Peerbhai successfully implanted a stent to keep the artery open but Clifford was in multiorgan failure. The external device (ECMO) helped Clifford’s struggling heart pump blood to his brain and body as he recovered from the heart attack. The next 48 to 72 hours were critical, and Clifford was under the watchful care of an ICU team that included specialists from intensivists, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, and nephrologists.

Clifford remained in a coma for 18 days. Eventually, he became more coherent and started responding to commands, nodding his head in answer to questions. During the 60 days at St. Luke’s-The Woodlands, he recovered his strength, came off the ventilator and dialysis, and began to walk.

Clifford spent several weeks in rehabilitation facilities and finally, four and a half months after his life-threatening heart attack, he returned home to his loving wife, three daughters, and son.

"It was a true multidisciplinary medical effort, and that is a big reason that Mr. Green is alive and able to tell his story," Dr. Peerbhai said, noting that St. Luke's Health-The Woodlands was well-equipped and staffed to manage this most challenging cardiac case. 

Dr. Patel agreed and will never forget the moment he saw Clifford return to St. Luke's-TheWoodlands for a celebration with his caregivers.

"Seeing him walk in that day wearing a Hawaiian shirt, smiling with his wife, kids and grandkids was an emotional moment for our entire team,” Dr. Patel recalls, with fond memories of the "Lifesavers Event" that included dozens of staff from the EMS crew who first arrived on the scene to the physicians, nurses, techs and custodians who were at Clifford's bedside.

The reunion moved Clifford to tears.

"That was surreal. To find out that I had that kind of impact on that many lives. It just tore me up. I’m extremely, extremely grateful to the entire staff at St. Luke's and grateful to God."

"You can put us on the record as saying that we have never been so pleased with a medical staff," Patricia Green says. "It was just amazing. We are touched by it all and humbled."

Clifford Green

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