As a veteran police officer, Ed S. prided himself on keeping in shape so that he could perform his physically demanding job. But in 2021, he began to feel breathless from normal activities.
“I would get winded, and I couldn’t understand why,” Ed says. “I couldn’t believe I couldn’t go up a couple flights of stairs without having to stop and collect myself. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what it was.”
As Ed’s symptoms worsened, so did his concern. His breathing was normal as long as he didn’t do anything physically demanding. But he had trouble performing basic chores he once did with ease, such as cutting the grass.
“I had to stop and catch my breath when doing things I normally could do without stopping,” Ed says.
A search for answers, then a serious diagnosis
Ed underwent breathing and heart tests, but doctors couldn’t determine the cause of his shortness of breath. Then, in December 2021, Ed collapsed after climbing a flight of stairs at his home.
“When I woke up, my wife and teenage boys were standing over me, and my wife was on the phone with 911,” Ed says.
Ed was hospitalized and treated with antibiotics for what doctors thought may be the cause, which was COVID-19-related pneumonia. Within a few days after leaving the hospital, he began to feel breathless again. Frustrated, Ed began pressing doctors for answers.
Luckily, his local pulmonologist recognized his symptoms. After undergoing tests, including lung scans, Ed was diagnosed with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), a rare form of high blood pressure caused by clots in the lungs’ blood vessels.
Like most people with CTEPH, Ed had previously experienced a blood clot in the lungs, called a pulmonary embolism (PE). PEs can often be dissolved with blood-thinning medications, but clots that do not dissolve can stay in the lungs for a long time. This causes pressure to build, and can result in CTEPH and shortness of breath.
Because his condition affected his breathing, Ed was unable to continue working as a police officer. He thought his 24-year law enforcement career was over.
“It was like a gut punch,” Ed says.
Temple offers a specialized surgical solution
Ed’s pulmonologist recommended he see a specialist at Temple’s Pulmonary Hypertension, Right Heart Failure & CTEPH/PTE Program. Temple is one of just a handful of medical centers in the country specializing in CTEPH treatment. In early 2022, Ed met with Estefania Oliveros, MD, MSc.
In addition to having high blood pressure in the lungs, Ed had right-sided heart enlargement as a result of his CTEPH. “It was only a matter of time before it turned into heart failure.”
Because of Dr. Oliveros’ experience within Temple’s Pulmonary Hypertension, Right Heart Failure & CTEPH/PTE Program, she knew exactly what was going on.
“She didn’t sugarcoat anything, which I liked,” Ed says. “She knew exactly what caused my CTEPH and exactly how I got to this point. And she knew that surgery was probably going to be the best avenue for me. She was wonderful.”
Fortunately for Ed, Temple is one of the only health centers on the East Coast to offer an advanced surgery called pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE), a highly complex procedure that is often the best course of action for curing CTEPH.
Dr. Oliveros explained the surgery to Ed, and how the procedure removes clots and scar tissue.
In May 2022, surgeon Yoshiya Toyoda, MD, PHD, performed Ed’s PTE surgery.
‘Like night and day’
After his recovery, Ed is enjoying his ability to breathe much better. The difference is like “night and day,” he says.
He’s back to lifting weights, hiking, taking care of his lawn, and performing other chores around the house the way he used to before his CTEPH diagnosis.
“I’m able to do the little things we all take for granted,” Ed says. “There were things I just couldn’t physically do but now I can. I have the surgery at Temple to thank for it.”
What’s more, in September 2022, he was able to return to full-time duty with the police force.
“My goal all along was to get back to work, because I love what I do,” Ed says. “It was a great feeling to be able to put on my uniform and get in my police car after having heard only months earlier that my career was over. It was emotional for me.”
The PTE surgery allowed Ed to enjoy his career in the police force as he had dreamed, until he retired in April 2023. Now, Ed is enjoying more time with his family and friends — and continuing to get stronger while breathing better.
After his surgery, Ed wrote a letter thanking the entire Temple team for the care he received.
“There are so many people I want to thank,” he says. “The care is second to none at Temple. And they were very accommodating to my family.”
Ed counts himself blessed to have access to a world-renowned medical center that offers a life-changing surgery for CTEPH.
“Temple gave me my life back,” Ed says.
Looking for more information?