It was April 8, 2018, and Dana Corr was looking forward to celebrating his 55th birthday that day with his wife and two daughters in their Westford home. He had just returned from a trip visiting colleges in Rhode Island the day before with his daughter. Unfortunately, all celebrations were put on hold that day as his heart seemed to have other plans.
“My wife told me later that she heard an awful gasp from me that woke her out of a sound sleep – she called 9-1-1 and that’s when the Westford EMTs arrived and began lifesaving measures,” said Corr.
Corr was rushed to Lowell General Hospital in the early morning hours in an acute state of heart failure.
When he arrived at the hospital, Dr. Kirk MacNaught, interventional cardiologist, was fully prepared to treat him for cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to support the body’s organs.
“Mr. Corr’s heart was only pumping at about 5% when he arrived,” said Dr. MacNaught. “He was in pretty bad shape at that point.”
During these critical situations it is important that experienced cardiologists have access to the latest cutting-edge technology to help save lives.
Dr. MacNaught immediately decided that Corr’s failing heart needed mechanical support. A tiny heart pump, called the Impella® CP, was inserted through his groin into his left ventricle. This device helped Corr’s heart function while they worked to stabilize him for transport to Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
As paramedics wheeled Corr out of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab to the med flight helicopter, MacNaught briefly prepped Corr’s wife and daughters on his serious condition. He recalls Corr’s wife telling her unconscious husband, rather loudly, that he’d better stay alive as his two daughters expected him to walk them down the aisle.
At Tufts Medical Center, Corr had a team of heart specialists come together to manage his tenuous condition. He underwent angioplasty to clear two blocked vessels, and catheters were placed in case he needed to be placed on Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), an advanced life support machine that takes over for the failing heart and lungs. Fortunately, this was avoided and his condition was expertly managed by the Heart Failure Team and the Intensivists in the Critical Care Unit. To help improve Corr’s cardiac function and protect him from a sudden cardiac event in the future, an advanced defibrillator was implanted to detect any abnormal heart rhythm. After about three weeks, he was able to return home.
Physicians explained to Corr that his life was saved by a true team effort, with Lowell General Hospital cardiologists serving as the plumbers, ensuring his arteries were clear, and Tufts MC specialists as the electricians, making sure the electric impulses in his heart were working properly.
The clinical partnership between Lowell General Hospital and Tufts Medical Center made his care seamless and allowed the cardiologists to easily consult on his care. Corr completed 12 weeks of Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation at Lowell General Hospital’s Saints campus and now sees Dr. MacNaught at his Merrimack Valley Cardiology office in North Chelmsford.
Corr said this life-changing experience really caught him by surprise. He always considered himself very healthy – working outdoors, eating right, and going to the gym at least three days a week. Although his dad had a history of heart disease, his three older brothers never had any issues. Now he has a different perspective.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get my wife to let her guard down,” said Corr. “But I’m definitely going to cherish every birthday moving forward.”