Mother of two nearly dies in sleep from cardiac arrhythmia

Michelle Kellim, heart disease, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center

Our-Stories-KellemWe all have those days we never forget, good and bad. Erik Kellim remembers such a day to the minute. It was 2:36 a.m. on a Tuesday when he woke up to his wife, Michelle, having a near-fatal heart crisis.

When Erik awoke, he noticed his wife lying next to him. He sensed something was wrong. Erik remembers wondering, "Why are her eyes wide open?"

"Instantly, I knew something wasn't right," Erik says. "She wasn't breathing."

Michelle was rushed to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center where doctors and nurses induced a hypothermic coma, a notion frightening to Erik. In reality, it’s a highly effective procedure involving a cooling vest to prevent brain and organ damage after a heart attack. The doctors and nurses applied the tactic with expert care, slowing the internal processes of Michelle’s body by cooling her to between 89 and 93 degrees.

Her heart was too weak for it to recover; a transplant was her best hope.

The doctors had a critical decision to make: what course of treatment would save Michelle's life?

They determined Michelle was a perfect candidate for the Impella pump. The treatment team knew that this very tiny "heart pump" would buy time by decreasing stress, improving blood flow and performing the heart's own work.

Michelle had been rushed to the right hospital. Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center was one of only two in the county that used the Impella pump.

"The Impella heart pump was critical in keeping her alive," says Erik. "Without that, she wouldn't have made it through the day. I can't thank the doctors enough."

Life is precious to Michelle—a gift she was given by the team at Palm Beach Gardens.

"I just want to thank everyone who helped me and worked on me," says Michelle. "It means the world, and I'm so happy to be able to hold my kids again."