INCREDIBLE: Alabama docs pull off miracle, save patient from massive aneurysm (video)
(Video above: The inspiring story of how Dr. Mustafa Ahmed and his teamed saved Jason Philpot’s life)
Alabama native Jason Philpot was leading a normal life in suburban Atlanta with his wife and young son when he heard the words “heart murmur” for the first time. His doctor told him during a routine physical that he had one, which is not usually a life-threatening condition, but suggested he go see a cardiologist to get it checked out.
Within a matter of months, Mr. Philpot began having fainting spells, and it soon became clear that it would take a medical miracle to save him from what turned out to be one of the rarest and largest aortic aneurysms ever seen by the medical community.
“Every time my heart would beat, you could see it,” said Mr. Philpot. “It was almost like my heart was jumping out of my chest.”
Due to the intricacy and severity of his heart aneurysm case, Mr. Philpot’s heart doctor sought out the expertise of Dr. Mustafa Ahmed, medical director of Princeton Baptist Medical Center’s Structural Heart Program in Birmingham, Alabama.
“In reviewing Mr. Philpot’s situation at the onset – and seeing for myself firsthand the severity of his heart issues – I truly had major hesitance in treating him, simply because no such case had been attempted before, and everything was pointing against being able to treat him,” said Dr. Ahmed.
Mr. Philpot, a 39-year-old devout Jehovah’s Witness, needed a doctor not only willing to operate, but to do so using a bloodless (non-transfusion), minimally invasive technique, due to his religious beliefs. After meeting the Philpot family and their now two-year-old son, Dr. Ahmed and his team felt they had to take his case on — and somehow try something that had never been done before.
“It’s very difficult when you’re telling a 39-year-old there’s no option for you — and we had that conversation,” recalled Dr. Ahmed. “It was at that time I noticed he’s got a two-year-old, and that two-year-old’s in the room with him. And I’m looking at him thinking, ‘You can’t bring your two-year-old in here!’ It kind of breaks your heart not to be able to do anything for him. And then you start thinking, is there any possible option?”
Led by Dr. Ahmed, his team created a surgery in which they would insert platinum coils into the groin and up to the heart to subsequently create a wall of coils around the aneurysm.
It was a bold idea, and something that no one had ever pulled off on an aneurysm the size of Mr. Philpot’s.
“He’s like, ok, your situation is like a Hail Mary. I’ve never seen this before. This aneurysm is huge. but I’m going to do whatever I can,” said Mr. Philpot’s wife, Brandi.
The 20-hour procedure was done in two parts in the summer of 2015, and against overwhelming odds, it worked.
“We definitely pushed the boundaries of cardiac procedures with this case based on unknowns,” said Dr. Ahmed. “Every element was a gamble because many parts of this specific case were so unique. There was definitely no manual on how to even approach this case, and so we (had) to come up with something new.”
Mr. Philpot is now recuperating even better than anyone could have anticipated.
“When I first met Jason, he could not walk three feet without being short of breath,” said Dr. Ahmed. “When I saw Jason today, this is a guy now walking several blocks without difficulty. He’s now back to living his normal quality of life. We could never have even wished for a result this good.”
“When I woke up, I was ecstatic,” Mr. Philpot laughed. “The fact that I could open my eyes and see my family, hear my family, even tough myself and say, ‘Hey, you’re alive!'”
On top of all that, “The Philpot Procedure” devised by Dr. Ahmed and his team now has the potential to save many others from this point forward.
“Dr. Ahmed saved Jason’s life,” said Mrs. Philpot. “He took a risk on my husband when no one else would and I’m so thankful for that. I really appreciate it.”
“’Thank you’ isn’t a sufficient phrase,” added Mr. Philpot, “but what I would say is just that – ‘thank you’ for not only taking my case but for taking on something new and unchartered … and ultimately succeeding at it. And if this case and my life can be used as an example to save others, then we have truly done something epic.”
The research that led to Dr. Ahmed’s groundbreaking procedure was funded in part by the American Heart Association. Birmingham’s annual “Heart Ball” raised over $1 million for the AHA this past weekend, and Mr. Philpot’s story was prominently featured during the event.
“This is, in no other way to put it, an epic story,” concluded Dr. Ahmed. “Faced by almost insurmountable odds, we developed a procedure to extend Jason’s life – and give him more time with his children who truly motivated us to reach further to save him. Most importantly, his follow up scans have shown that the aneurysm has been nicely occluded and shown no further growth at this time.”