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Ascension Macomb has new technology to help patients with blood clots from COVID-19

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Posted at 3:55 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 23:36:39-05

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — The omicron surge continues to put local hospitals in a tailspin. Now, doctors are seeing a rise in blood clots in patients suffering with COVID-19.

Where you land during an emergency could make the difference between life and death as one Macomb County woman found out when her life was on the line.

At the end of 2021 Christina Peak, a nurse, was not working. Three months pregnant, she found herself short of breath and feeling like she was running on a treadmill when she was only sitting.

“I said my heart should not be beating that fast,” Peak said.

Without health insurance and afraid of a big bill, she stayed home hoping she would feel better but instead, she fainted.

“I said, you got to call 911. I said, something is not right,” Peak said.

After passing out two more times, paramedics arrived. Her oxygen level and heart rate were low. She had pulmonary embolisms in both lungs and at risk of death.

“I remember my niece hitting me and saying, ‘Tee Tee, wake up, wake up.’ It's going to be OK, waking up,” Peak said.

They raced her to Ascension Macomb-Oakland where Dr. Theodore Schreiber says they have pioneered brand innovative technology to deal with blood clots on the lungs.

“How major of a case was hers?" WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford asked Dr. Schreiber.

“It was a very major case. Anytime someone has had a pulmonary embolism, has episodes where they faint and lost consciousness, pass out, that meant the heart is incapable of pumping enough blood to the vital organs,” Schreiber said.

Ascension Macomb has a PERT team, which stands for Pulmonary Embolism Response Team. Even with an overload of COVID-19 patients, their emergency rooms know what to do when a patient has a clot.

“Without a PERT team and had she not arrived to you, would she have died?” Clifford asked.

“Had she landed at another hospital without a PERT team and without the knowledge and experience we have at Ascension Macomb, she would have died,” Schreiber said.

Knowing she was pregnant, doctors told her they had to save her first and time was critical.

“If you go, then you and your baby will go as well,” Schreiber said.

They first did the least invasive procedure to break up the clots by going up her groin.

“It felt as if an elephant was on my chest, I mean I could not breathe, it was horrible,” Peak said.

They quickly realized it did not work and she had to be rushed back to the operating room.

So, I'm trying to breath oxygen, 15 liters. And I still couldn't breathe at the point, it was like panicking,” Peak said.

An entire team of doctors surrounded her.

“I just remember throwing my hand in the air and saying, 'I quit. God, this is my time.' They were just so supportive,” Peak said. “I could actually feel that last blood clot pulled out. Oh my God, I can breathe.”

Shreiber says before clot retriever technology, a patient like Peak would have needed open -heart surgery to remove her pulmonary embolisms.

“It's the only easily available technology that's easily useable and safe to remove most if not all of the lung clots,” Schreiber said.

Shreiber says since the pandemic began, the number of lung clots in patients doubled, tripled and quadrupled.

Risk factors include weight, exercise, heart disease, diabetes and if you are elderly. And a major risk factor now is the presence of COVID-19.

“Did you realize how lucky you were going to a hospital with a PERT team?” Clifford asked Peak.

“To me, or it could be based on my intuition that was nothing but God,” Peak said.

Shreiber says if you have any symptoms of pulmonary embolism including leg clots, which cause swelling, pain in your calves or new discoloration, seek medical attention immediately.