Written by SMH Senior Communications Specialist Kim Savage
Brian Bosworth, 55, a retired Army colonel, was vacationing on Longboat Key with his wife, Kathryn, when he suffered a massive heart attack and went into cardiogenic shock. A rare condition — and often fatal, if not treated immediately — cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Fortunately, Brian’s brush with death was accompanied by some good fortune as well.
His wife, asleep next to him when the attack occurred, is a retired clinician professionally trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Kathryn heard Brian’s forceful gasp and realized he had stopped breathing. She immediately called 9-1-1 and moved her husband to the floor to begin CPR.
Rescue workers from Longboat Key Fire Department arrived within minutes to transport Brian to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, resuscitating him repeatedly en route.
Looking back, Brian said, he feels lucky to have been so close to SMH with its advanced cardiac catheterization and cardiac critical-care capabilities.
“There were so many things that came together to help save my life,” Brian reflected. “I feel so grateful for everything and everyone who played a part that day.”
At the hospital, Brian was whisked directly to the catheterization lab (cath lab), where Interventional Cardiologist Bill King, MD, inserted four stents into Brian’s failing heart, quickly restoring blood flow. Brian was then transferred to a specialized cardiac critical-care unit, where doctors kept him on a ventilator and carefully monitored his heart and lung function.
But he wasn’t out of the woods yet.
“His heart was still not working well, and his oxygen levels remained dangerously low. It was an extremely critical time in his recovery,” said SMH Cardiac Surgeon Jonathan Fong, MD. If Brian’s heart did not get stronger soon, he would likely need a heart transplant.
In the end, it was a pivotal decision by the medical team to use a life-saving machine that tipped the balance for Brian. For three days, the hospital’s new extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) system sustained the New Jersey man while his stunned heart fought to recover.
The ECMO heart-lung bypass system circulates blood through an external, artificial lung before sending it back into the patient’s bloodstream, explained SMH Critical Care Pulmonologist Kirk Voelker, MD.
“The ECMO basically replaces the functions of the heart and lungs and relieves the stress on those organs so that the body can help heal itself,” Voelker said.
Typically, heart-lung bypass is available only during heart surgery and only in surgical rooms. But thanks to a gift from the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, SMH is among a small percentage of medical centers across the US whose intensive care units are equipped with the advanced technology to support critical-care patients 24/7.
A man of faith, Brian believes the ECMO was yet one more gift from above.
“I know there was a higher power at work,” he said. “I thank the Lord every day for the incredible team and technology that was there when I needed it. They saved my life.”
Click here to learn more about SMH’s Heart and Vascular Services.
Kim Savage is Sarasota Memorial's senior communications and public information specialist, overseeing media relations and external communications for the health system since 1999.