Until he met his medical team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, the road to recovery had been long and painful for 48-year-old William Ramey, a truck driver from Missouri City, Texas. Four years ago, he developed blood clots in his legs while on a long driving trip out West. When he got out of his vehicle, he began feeling poorly - so poorly he had to be airlifted to a hospital in New Mexico.
He was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism secondary to deep vein thrombosis. A blood clot traveled to an artery in his lung, blocking blood flow. Doctors placed him on blood thinners and then intravenous heart medications. But his health problems persisted. Over the next 36 months, he was plagued with shortness of breath, fluid retention and kidney problems. “I had been in and out of the hospital for three years,” he recalled.
William’s health worsened to the point that his heart’s right ventricle stopped pumping blood, further weakening his heart, lung and kidneys. He could barely walk due to shortness of breath and weakness.
He finally made an appointment at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in January 2022. Cardiologist Ajith P. Nair diagnosed chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), a rare condition that can develop following a pulmonary embolism. “Mr. Ramey was suffering from severe right ventricular failure resulting in poor cardiac function and pulmonary pressures. Significant chronic clots were obstructing both of his pulmonary arteries. Because of the severity of his condition, Mr. Ramey was not a candidate for a heart-lung transplant,” Dr. Nair explained.
There remained only one option - pulmonary endarterectomy, a highly specialized surgery that required placing Mr. Ramey on a heart-lung bypass machine and cooling his body to below 20 degrees Celsius to allow the surgeons to safely operate within the pulmonary arteries. A surgical team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center led by Dr. Gabriel Loor, director of lung transplantation and co-director of adult cardiac surgery, removed all of the obstructing material within Mr. Ramey’s pulmonary arteries. The damage to his lungs and heart was reversed almost immediately.
“Mr. Ramey came through the 6-hour surgery with no complications. His pulmonary pressures, right heart function and kidney function all returned to normal,” said Dr. Kenneth Liao, a member of the pulmonary endarterectomy surgical team and chief of the division of cardiopulmonary transplantation at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.
“The surgery reversed everything,” Williams recounted. “My heart started pumping again on both sides and my kidneys are working like a newborn. I have my life back and I can’t say enough about my medical team. I really believe that God sent them to perform a miracle for me.”