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Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center saves life of a woman who nearly dies from a blood clot in her lungs

Jun 10, 2020

Andrea Feder, who was visiting her 2-day-old grandson when she was rushed to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, was treated with clot-busting drugs and a special heart pump.

PALM BEACH GARDENS - Cutting-edge technology and a quick diagnosis by the emergency room staff at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center helped save the life of a first-time grandmother suffering from a life-threatening blood clot

Andrea Feder, a 57-year-old retired teacher who lives in St. Augustine, was visiting her daughter, son-in-law and 1-day-old grandson at their Palm Beach Gardens home in April when she began experiencing dizziness, clammy skin and other worrying symptoms.

Her symptoms returned the next day, followed by convulsions.

Feder’s family called an ambulance, and she was rushed to the hospital, where she was stabilized in the emergency room. Tests showed that Feder, who had no underlying medical conditions but was recovering from a broken bone in her foot, had developed a blood clot in her pulmonary artery

The clot, which Feder was told likely formed in her leg following her injury, caused a saddle pulmonary embolism, a dangerous condition in which blood flow in the pulmonary artery is blocked.

Saddle pulmonary embolisms often are fatal, said Dr. Nishant Patel, a cardiac surgeon who treated Feder.

“It typically is something that is not survivable,” he said. “She is the only person in three years that we’ve seen in the hospital that actually made it to the hospital.”

But Feder, a Wisconsin native, was far from being out of the woods.

She began turning blue while she was in the emergency room, and doctors immediately gave her a drug to dissolve the clot.

Meanwhile, an echocardiogram determined that Feder’s right ventricle wasn’t functioning.

“The clot was already in her lungs, and it got stuck in her heart and clogged her heart,” said Jeff Feder, Andrea’s husband. “Her heart wasn’t working.”

Feder was rushed into surgery, where Patel implanted a device that temporarily assists the pumping function of the heart and ensures blood flow is maintained.

The device, called an Impella RP heart pump, allows the right ventricle to rest and heal, Patel said.

Feder was placed in a medically induced coma for three days, during which time Patel continuously monitored her heart function through ultrasounds and other tests

When her ventricle returned to normal, the pump was removed.

“They weaned her off the pump and brought her back to life,” Jeff Feder said of his wife. “Her heart stepped up to the challenge.”

Feder, who was unable to have visitors at the hospital because of the coronavirus pandemic, recovered quickly after that.

She was released from the hospital after a week, but was pushing to go home earlier.

“I begged to come out of the hospital,” she said. “Jeff and the kids came to see me through the window. Because of COVID, there were no visitors. I so wanted to go home.”

After her release, Feder visited a handful of doctors for follow-up care, and discovered she carries two mutations that make her blood clot more quickly.

Those mutations made it easier for a clot to form in her leg while she kept it immobile during her foot injury and subsequent car trip from St. Augustine to Palm Beach Gardens. The clot ultimately traveled to her lungs.

“I’m an overachiever when it comes to clotting,” she said. “I’ll need to be on blood thinners forever. It’ll just be part of my daily routine to keep my blood slippery instead of sticky.”

The Feders, who are back in St. Augustine and anticipate a visit from their new grandson next week, are grateful to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and its staff for saving Andrea’s life.

“We didn’t realize how grave it was at certain points,” Jeff Feder said. “Dr. Patel shared with us afterwards that the combination of giving her that powerful clot buster immediately and putting that pump in was only performed once before in the world. She’s in a small group of survivors. We’re very grateful, extremely grateful that she’s here.”

Patel also attributed Feder’s survival to her getting to the hospital soon after experiencing symptoms. Many other patients who need immediate medical care have stayed away from the hospital because of coronavirus concerns.

“If you’re having new symptoms, or symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath, the safest place for you to be is in the care of physicians and healthcare providers in a hospital,” Patel said.

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