Pulmonary Embolism a Long Way from Home

Bryan has always been an active guy, but after white water rafting and a gondola ride to the top of a mountain, he started having trouble breathing.

In July 2017, Bryan Kasper, the owner of Kasper Auto Group in Sandusky, attended a car dealer meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Bryan decided to take part in some of the local activities to take in all Jackson Hole had to offer. On the first day he went white water racing on the Snake River.

“That night I started to have flu-like symptoms,” Bryan said. The next day he shook it off and decided to take a gondola ride to the top of a mountain. But, that’s when things took a turn for Bryan.

Facing a pulmonary embolism, Bryan is loaded into the ambulance jet.

His flu-like symptoms intensified and he was having trouble breathing. He headed down the mountain and went to an urgent care where they did some tests but ultimately sent him to the nearest hospital for a CT scan.

“That’s when they learned I had a massive pulmonary embolism,” said Bryan. “They started me on blood thinners to keep the pulmonary embolism from getting worse, but that doesn’t do anything for the problem.”

The team at the hospital began looking into facilities in Salt Lake City, Utah and Billings, Montana because they were no longer able to provide Bryan with the level of care he needed for the pulmonary embolism. It was going to be a couple of days before either hospital could take him. And in his condition, a couple of days could have been detrimental to Bryan’s health.

Fortunately, Bryan is friends with local vascular surgeon Dowzell Swayngim, MD, and cardiologist Patrick McGuinn, MD, both of whom are on the medical staff at Firelands Regional Medical Center.

He contacted them to get their thoughts and they told Bryan he needed to be in a catheterization lab getting a drug called tPA, which is used to dissolve blood clots like those in a pulmonary embolism. Dr. McGuinn sprang into action and talked to his colleague, Scott Sheldon, DO, interventional cardiologist, who said he could have Bryan in the cath lab for pulmonary embolism treatment within 15 minutes of arriving at Firelands.

The only problem? Bryan was still in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Patty Martin, vice president of quality at Firelands, and Dr. McGuinn learned of Bryan's pulmonary embolism and began calling different ambulance companies to see if they could find a way to get Bryan to Firelands. Finally, they found a company that had an ambulance jet willing to transport him.

Bryan returned to Sandusky, Ohio for pulmonary embolism treatment.

“I flew into Port Clinton, got in an ambulance and within 15 minutes of getting through the door I was in the cath lab getting medicine for the pulmonary embolism,” Bryan said. “Two days later I walked out of the hospital without a blood clot.”Bryan continued, “I trust (Drs. Swayngim and McGuinn) with my life. They got me in and got me the best treatment. I was at home where my friends and family could see me. I passed some of the finest institutions in the country–and probably the world– to get to where I was. But there’s nothing like getting great care from people in your town that you know and trust.”

Warning Signs of Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly but common signs and symptoms include:*

  • Shortness of breath that typically appears suddenly and always gets worse with exertion.
  • Chest pain that may become worse when you breathe deeply, cough, eat, bend or stoop. The pain will get worse with exertion but won't go away when you rest.
  • Cough that may produce bloody or blood-streaked phlegm.

Other signs & symptoms that can occur with pulmonary embolism include:

  • Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the calf
  • Clammy or discolored skin (cyanosis)
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

*Source: Mayo Clinic