Family feared worst: Alberta woman beats death after device removed COVID blood clot

·3 min read

CALGARY — Alberta Health Services says a woman considered dead for 30 minutes was brought back to life by doctors using a new device for what's believed to have been the first time in Canada.

Brenda Crowell of Calgary developed blood clots shortly after contracting COVID-19 earlier this year. Her health deteriorated quickly and, at one point, medical staff spent 25 minutes performing CPR to keep her alive.

"Her blood pressure had bottomed out. It was extremely low. She went into a state of shock and collapse, and some of her organs were failing," Dr. Jason Wong, an interventional radiologist at Foothills Medical Centre, said at a news conference Thursday.

His team jumped into action after receiving Health Canada approval to use a new device — the Indigo Lightning CAT12 — to extract a deadly blood clot that had made its way into Crowell's lungs.

She woke up having no idea how close she had come to death.

"People say there aren't miracles anymore, but there are, because I don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for the touch of God," Crowell said.

She had spent almost a month in hospital, including eight days in a medically induced coma. Her family feared the worst.

“My son, who at the time was 18 said, ‘Mom, we didn’t know if we’d be planning your funeral,'” said Crowell through tears.

“I have emotional days where I just can’t believe what happened to me, and how sick I was, and how close to death I was. I can’t believe what my family went through.”

The CAT12 is a tube the size of a large drinking straw and allows medical experts to remove larger blood clots than previously able with a minimally invasive procedure.

Wong said the CAT12 is a game changer.

"This procedure has been done in our centre before, as well as in other centres in Canada, but not with this device," he said.

"We knew, based on the imaging, (that) Brenda's heart was doing extremely poorly. We knew there were large amounts of blood clots in her lungs, so that was the trigger to do the procedure."

Crowell, who was unvaccinated when she tested positive for COVID-19, hopes her experience encourages others to get immunized.

Although she was previously unsure of the vaccine, her entire family now has had both shots. Her first was before she left the hospital.

"I know there's lots of controversy and everything. We were kind of on that boat, too," said Crowell.

"You can still get vaccinated. You have to do what you can to make it better for everybody."

The majority of Albertans hospitalized or admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, Alberta Health data shows.

Since Jan. 1, 93.9 per cent of new cases have been among those without two shots. The same goes for 91.7 per cent of hospitalized cases and 86.1 per cent of COVID-19 deaths.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had the Indigo Lightning CAT12 spelled incorrectly.

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