Recovery is a Journey

Scott Winder, a human resources director and outdoorsman, was having trouble breathing and wasn’t sleeping well. Like many men, he dismissed the symptoms as insignificant for about a week. Then, at work on January 28, 2019, he suddenly felt his heart start to race, breathing became more difficult and he started sweating.

“I knew something wasn’t right,” Scott said, and he went to the Emergency Department at Parkland Health Center in Farmington.

Scott walked through the doors of the emergency room and collapsed.

After stabilizing him, Scott’s doctors arranged his transfer to their partners at Missouri Baptist Medical Center and the advanced heart care team.

A Coordinated Effort

When Scott arrived at the Missouri Baptist Intensive Care Unit (ICU), he was diagnosed with cardiogenic shock, a type of heart failure caused by the inability of the heart to pump enough blood for the body’s needs. BJC Medical Group cardiologist Dr. Michael Klein initially evaluated Scott in the ICU and called onsite Washington University cardiologist Dr. Gregory Ewald and the heart failure team to see him.

“We performed an echocardiogram, which revealed that he had severely reduced heart function. We also noted that he had atrial flutter, an abnormal heart rhythm when the upper chambers of the heart beat faster than the bottom ones,” Dr. Ewald said. “The persistently high heart rate over time likely caused his heart muscle dysfunction.”

To stabilize Scott and provide the best short-term support, a multi-disciplinary team made up of Washington University and MoBap cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and electrophysiologists recommended extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. During this procedure, the ECMO machine replaces the function of the heart and lungs, giving Scott’s heart time to heal.

“Scott’s heart failure also affected his kidneys and liver. He was experiencing multiple organ failure,” Dr. Ewald added.

Once on ECMO, Scott’s heart rate was lowered and returned to regular rhythm. He stayed on ECMO for four days, during which time his heart – and body – started to recover.

“The team worked together in a short amount of time to give Scott the support he needed to survive,” Dr. Ewald said. “After he was off ECMO, we put Scott on a medical management plan to help his heart recover and support his heart long-term.” Scott woke up two weeks later with memory loss and motor weakness.

“When I regained consciousness in the ICU, I didn’t know what had happened,” Scott said. “I’ve been healthy and had one knee surgery before this hospitalization. Heart failure was a diagnosis that was a surprise.” While he was at MoBap, Scott worked with physical and occupational rehabilitation therapists who helped him regain strength and movement. While he sustained permanent kidney damage, he doesn’t require dialysis.

A New Lease on Life

“The doctors and the nursing care were wonderful,” he said. “I’m thankful that the doctors at Parkland Health Center identified the care I needed and quickly transferred me to MoBap.” The partnership between MoBap and Parkland continued as Scott worked through his cardiac rehabilitation program, helping to get him back to work a few months later.

Dr. Ewald and the Heart Failure Clinic are working to make sure Scott’s heart continues to recover. “At our regular followup visits, Scott has shown good recovery of his heart function and it continues to get better,” Dr. Ewald confirmed. His heart is now able to pump blood at 60% volume each beat, up from 30%. A healthy heart pumps between 55% and 70% of volume each beat.

Looking back at his experience, Scott is thankful that he’s alive. “It’s important to listen to your doctors and to your body,” he advised. “I’m lucky I survived and am here to spend time with my wife, four sons, three grandchildren and extended family.”

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