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Doctors describe woman as ‘a miracle’ after surviving open-heart surgery

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) – February is a time to focus on your heart health.

Symptoms of heart disease are not always obvious. Most of the time, heart disease is known as the silent killer.

Every day when Patsy Howell sets foot in Pikeville Medical Center, this nurse practitioner helps save lives.

“I was in good health. I exercised regularly and ate well,” Howell said.

She did not know two years ago that she would be the one who would need vital care.

“Patsy is a miracle,” said Dr. Dermot Halpin. “When she came to see me, she was seriously ill.”

After minor surgery, Howell noticed she was feeling short of breath.

Her family called 911, but she doesn’t remember much after that.

“It went downhill from there until I was off the ventilator about 11 days later,” Howell said.

Dr Halpin said Howell developed a pulmonary embolism.

It happens when a small piece of debris passes through an individual’s bloodstream and gets stuck in an artery in their lung.

In Howell’s case, the debris was part of a blood clot.

Dr. Halpin says that once they looked at the echocardiogram, they knew they needed to perform open-heart surgery immediately. He said Howell only had a few hours to live.

“When I pulled the blood clot out, we came out a third to half a cup full of clot there,” Dr. Halpin said.

Saving Howell’s life, the couple bonded to see her Echo again two years later.

With many years ahead of her, Howell puts her mended heart to work as an advocate for others.

“It shows that the healthiest person could be affected. Be sure to get checked for bleeding disorders and follow up with your doctor regularly,” Howell said.

To learn more about heart health, click here.

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