Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Jamaican man’s life saved through pioneering surgery in Cayman Islands

Jamaican farmer, 31-year-old Clester Christie, whose life was saved through a number of specialised surgical procedures after he recently fell critically ill in the Cayman Islands. (Health City Cayman Islands photos)

Jamaican farmer, 31-year-old Clester Christie, whose life was saved through a number of specialised surgical procedures after he recently fell critically ill in the Cayman Islands. (Health City Cayman Islands photos)

A Jamaican farmer who had a life-threatening case of leptospirosis, is thankful for healing, following a pioneering intervention by doctors at Health City Cayman Islands.

Clester Christie came to Grand Cayman for work, but fell seriously ill a few days after his arrival.

Fortunately for the 31-year-old, Dr Nelson Iheonunekwu, an internal medicine and nephrology specialist at the Health Services Authority (HSA), recognised that Christie's vitals were falling fast, and quickly referred him to the East End, Grand Cayman health facility.

At Health City, doctors confirmed the HSA's diagnosis that Christie was suffering from a complication of the zoonotic bacterial infection, leptospirosis, called leptospirosis pulmonary hemorrhagic syndrome, which is a rare bacterial disease that forms blood clots in the lungs of the afflicted.

Dr Binoy Chattuparambil, Chief Cardiac Surgeon and Senior Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon at Health City, accepted the emergency case from Dr Iheonunekwu.

"He came here (and at) that time he was in a very critical stage. I would say his oxygen level, his saturation level, was in the 50s, so if he stayed like that a few more hours, he would have arrested ... within half an hour we took him to the operating room," Dr Chattuparambil said.

Giving the lungs a rest

The Health City team hooked Christie up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine via the venovenous route, to support his lungs, marking the first time Health City doctors had used ECMO in this manner. For previous patients, ECMO had been used to support both the heart and lungs.

Dr Dhruva Kumar Krishnan, Senior Consultant in Cardiac Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, explained that the venovenous ECMO support gives the lungs a rest.

"When the lungs (have) failed to do what (they are) supposed to do, we can rest the lungs by bringing the blood out from the body into the (machine and wash) out the carbon dioxide, (then add) more oxygen to it and (bring) it back into the heart. So, this machine (helps) the lungs start to function normally," he outlined.

Dr Chattuparambil said their bronchoscopy examination revealed that "both lungs were packed with blood clots, both sides ... the lung ... was ...choked - so no blood was going inside."

With this new information, Dr Dhruva, as patients call him, performed several complicated bronchoscopies to remove multiple blood clots.

"He had a lot of clots in his lungs, so we had to clear them all ... at the same time, we don't want fresh bleeding to happen. He slowly improved ... but again, he started deteriorating when we tried taking this machine off after a couple of days ... we had to do repeated bronchoscopy procedures to remove the remaining clots ... before he could get better," Dr Dhruva explained.

Seeing the patient on the road to recovery was doubly rewarding for the doctors who treated him. "We are very happy for this man, who is doing well now," said Dr Dhruva.

Dr Mahantesh Patil, Medical Intensivist at Health City, said: "Mr Clester, I would say he is very lucky to (have been) on the island at the right time ... in my last 15 years of clinical experience, I have not seen such a severe form of leptospirosis."

Dr Patil also noted that the mortality rate for patients in Christie's condition is "extremely high, I would say as high as 70 per cent ... despite all support, and if you don't have a facility to do multi-organ support, I would say he had no chance to survive."

Grateful for the care he received at Health City, Christie, a father of two young children, said: "If I never came here, I would have died. If I was in Jamaica, I would have died ... they don't have the same equipment like they do (at) Health City to help me."

Doctors 'deeply moved' by Christie's recovery

The HSA's Dr Iheonunekwu was deeply moved when he saw his former patient after his recovery: "I was amazed. In fact some of the nurses in critical care who were taking care of him, who knew how gravely sick he was, were in tears when he actually came to pay us a visit ... so we were really, really moved and we were very grateful to God that he made it. It was a very amazing story. If only people knew what Health City does, they would appreciate what was done for him. Any other place - if it was in areas where ECMO was not available - he would have died ... there is no doubt about that."

Dr Binoy, as he is commonly known, noted the severity of Christie's condition when he arrived at Health City. "We knew that if we didn't extend help, he was going to die," he said, adding that the facility got its reward in seeing Christie reunited with his wife and children.

Health City Cayman Islands, the vision of renowned heart surgeon and humanitarian Dr Devi Shetty, is supported by two major healthcare organisations, Narayana Health and the US-based Ascension, which is America's largest faith-based and nonprofit health system, providing quality care to all, with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable.

Health City is one of only two hospitals in the Caribbean to have receive the Joint Commission International's ‘Hospital Accreditation’, and is noted to provide a full array of specialized medical treatments.

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