Yesterday afternoon, aboard a commercial airplane, President Martelly was rushed to the Miami hospital he was operated on probably as a result of preliminary signs such as dyspnea (difficulty breathing), tachypnea (shortness of breast), coughing and chest pain on inspiration. After meticulously examining the case, the medical staff came up with pulmonary embolism as the diagnosis.
Briefly, pulmonary embolism is a situation that occurs as a result of a circulating thrombus (blood clot) blocking the circulation of the blood at the level of the lungs. That is the basic definition.
Prolonged bed rest resulting from a major invasive procedure places the patient at risk for post-operative thromboembolism. So to avoid such complication, they usually attach to the patient’s lower extremities sequential compression devices (SCDs) -stockings that wrap around the legs and periodically inflate and deflate with air -to accelerate the venous blood return. Ambulating the patient immediately after surgery also reduces the risk of thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
From a pathophysiological standpoint, since the exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) for oxygen (O2) taking place in the lungs is compromised (as a result of the blockage), the patient’s supply in O2 decreases -which eventually, if not rushed to the ER to be treated urgently, will cause cyanosis (a bluish or purplish coloration of the skin as a result of a low circulating oxygen saturation), low blood pressure, tachycardia, tachypnea, collapse and sudden death. So needless to say that pulmonary embolism is a serious condition.
Now, in the case of President Martelly, what could be the cause of such condition? Well, since he just had a right shoulder arthroscopy to treat a damage joint, this will be the main focus in the investigation of the case. But other underlining conditions -hypertension, diabetes, etc… -could cause that as well. So it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the president’s medical history to pinpoint what exactly is the root cause of the condition.
Pulmonary embolism is a treatable condition. Normally, they will proceed with anticoagulant to undo or dissolve the clot. So while the patient is in the hospital, they will probably heparinize him or her with heparin to be tapered down as the patient is being put on warfarin (coumadin) before being sent home still on warfarin (coumadin) therapy.
While on warfarin, the president will have to have his blood studied every month to determine the effects of the therapy and if he must be taken off the drug.
President Martelly was literally flirting with death. So it was a good thing that he was rushed to the hospital to receive the appropriate and most needed medical care. Otherwise, the unexpected, which is death, could have resulted. Per the press release issued by his office, his health is in stable condition. I wish him a speedy recovery.