Allison first had trouble breathing during a vacation to New York City. A native of the Caribbean island of Grenada and a self-described “fitness fanatic,” she was concerned. She consulted doctors but none of them could figure out what was wrong.
Two years passed before a cardiologist finally diagnosed Allison’s problem: chronic blood clots in the arteries of her lungs had led to pulmonary hypertension – a type of high blood pressure in the lungs. The combination of the two problems caused a life-threatening condition called chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, or CTEPH for short.
By now, Allison was in bad shape. Her heart was failing. She was retaining more than 30 pounds of fluid, taxing her lungs and heart even more. Walking 10 steps from her bedroom to her bathroom left her gasping for air. She couldn’t even talk with her 12-year-old daughter without feeling winded.
Doctors estimated she had less than 6 months to live.
A Chance Encounter Leads to a Life-Saving Surgery
With limited medical resources in Grenada, Allison was fortunate that her case came to the attention of Dr. Pravin Patil, a Temple cardiologist who travels to the island each year to see patients at a clinic. Dr. Patil agreed to see Allison, who describes the appointment as “the start of the miracle.”
Dr. Patil immediately recognized that Allison was in dire need of advanced care. He called his Temple colleagues Drs. Paul Forfia and Anjali Vaidya who specialize in CTEPH. Temple is one of the few hospitals in the U.S. that offers a complex surgery called pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE). The Temple team thought Allison was an excellent candidate for the surgery, which cures patients of CTEPH by removing the blood clots from their lungs.
Allison arrived at Temple University Hospital on December 14. Dr. Yoshiya Toyoda, chief of cardiovascular surgery, performed PTE surgery on December 20.
“Having a gift like that, I didn’t mind being in the hospital during the holidays,” she says. “We understood that Dr. Toyoda may be the best in the world, so I felt like a celebrity.”
Allison’s long-time partner, Roland, was similarly impressed. “Our experience at Temple was one of the most rewarding I’ve ever had. Every single person treated us like family. I don’t know if we could have had a better experience anywhere else.”
A Return to the Life She Once Knew
Allison’s recovery has been nothing short of astonishing. Within days of her surgery, she was climbing stairs. Soon, her oxygen intake and blood pressure returned to normal. Her right heart function has improved dramatically, and all signs point to a full recovery.