People call my husband Saroj the ‘miracle man’. Here is our story why…

On Friday 12th October, Saroj suffered a severe heart attack and cardiogenic shock. On looking this medical terminology up, to make sure we communicate the terms correctly, it is still shocking to read the statistics and information around all this. Only 8.6% of out-of hospital-heart attacks survive. We reiterate all this to be able to convey the miraculous recovery and healing journey for Saroj.

Cardiogenic shock is a condition in which your heart suddenly can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. The condition is most often caused by a severe heart attack. Cardiogenic shock is rare, but it's often fatal if not treated immediately. If treated immediately, about half the people who develop the condition survive.

Fortunately, I was working at home that day and heard him fall in the bathroom. I discovered him unconscious on the floor, rang 999, and proceeded to be guided by an amazing ambulance call handler to perform CPR for over 10 long minutes until the first team of paramedics arrived at the front door. They were swiftly followed by 3 more teams of paramedics in ambulances and first responder vehicles plus a further air ambulance team of two doctors and one paramedic. But even with the defibrillator, they struggled to get his heart beating and they took him to St George’s Hospital fitted with a gruesome-looking Lucas chest compression machine that basically pummelled his chest mechanically. Saroj was rushed into the catheter lab and the cardiology team fitted a stent to open a complete blockage on his main artery.

Despite the great care from the coronary intensive care team at St George’s, when I arrived the next morning, I was told by the consultant that Saroj was not responding to treatment and they had reached the limit of what they could do for him. I was told to expect the worst and to call my ‘priest’.

When the consultant came into the family waiting room on that first Saturday afternoon to call me out, they all feared the worst, but in fact I was told there was a team from the Royal Brompton Hospital coming to assess him to see if he was suitable for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) specialist life-support treatment. There are only five adult ECMO centres in the UK, two of which are in London and the others are based in Leicester, Manchester and Cambridge.

Saroj was transferred to the heart and lung ICU unit at Royal Brompton Hospital. The ECMO machine pumps and oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. When you are connected to an ECMO, blood flows through tubing to an artificial lung in the machine that adds oxygen and takes out carbon dioxide; then the blood is warmed to body temperature and pumped back into your body. There are two types of ECMO: VA ECMO for the heart and VV ECMO for the lungs. Saroj had both.

Several critical periods followed, every organ seemed to go into free fall – the heart, the lungs, the kidneys all failed and the liver flared up. The machinery around his bed was like a sci-fi movie. The number of consultants and nurses attending to him simply incredible.

After ten days on the ECMO machine, Saroj was transferred back to the ICU unit at St George’s, still sedated and unconscious, on October 23rd and remained in the ICU until November 12th when he was finally moved out of ICU and on to the cardiology ward.

There are so many amazing facts and miraculous aspects to this story, it’s hard to fit them all into one article.  

53 days in hospital: ECMO life support machine treatment, a temporary pace maker, acute kidney injury, complete respiratory failure, critical illness myopathy (Saroj was initially unable to walk or sit up due to muscle wastage and nerve damage to his limbs).

I was told to fear the worst on so many occasions - that he may well have brain damage due to the lack of oxygen during the heart attack (we are blessed that his personality and character is still there); that he would need a pacemaker and maybe an internal defibrillator (he did not); that he would need permanent kidney dialysis (he did not, his kidneys came back to life after three full dialysis sessions); that his vocal chords were damaged and he may have problems speaking and eating (he certainly has no problems there!).

Saroj is still on a long journey of recovery. We had an ICU clinical follow up appointment at Royal Brompton Hospital recently and they said after such a significant trauma it takes 2-3 years to recover. But the blessing is that Saroj is very much alive and restored. He is strengthening every day.

We are so thankful for our amazing NHS, the amazing paramedics, air ambulance crew, ICU, cardiology and renal teams at St George’s and the ECMO team at the Royal Brompton.