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The Story of Mike Barr

Michael J. Cuttica, MD Pulmonology

S. Christopher Malaisrie, MD Cardiac Surgery

Daniel R. Schimmel, MD Interventional Cardiology

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Bringing Mike Back

For a month, Mike was stabilized in an induced coma. But this was no restful sleep. Led by Dr. Cuttica, a tireless team of nurses helped Mike fend off acute hypoxic respiratory failure ― a lack of oxygen in the blood ― and a serious infection. By the time Mike was awakened, his team had given him a diagnosis: chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), a condition caused by blood clots deep in the lungs. Even if he survived his critical illness, traditional therapies would prevent him from enjoying the life he once had ― leaving him connected to an oxygen tank indefinitely.

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Clearing the Way

Chronic clogging and debris buildup in his lungs had brought the right side of Mike’s heart to the brink of failure. In order to remove the clots, Dr. Malaisrie performed a high-risk pulmonary endarterectomy, opening and clearing the arteries that led into Mike’s lungs. This lengthy procedure removed nearly 90% of the clotting, yet Mike’s team knew that to fully restore blood flow, more had to be done.

This procedure is incredibly satisfying because the difference before operation and after operation is apparent immediately.
– S. Christopher Malaisrie, MD
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A Groundbreaking Procedure

Anchored by the only Illinois hospital on the national Honor Roll for 12 straight years and top ranked heart and vascular program in Illinois,* Northwestern Medicine empowers its clinical teams to pioneer groundbreaking treatments. That’s why Dr. Schimmel had visited specialists in the U.S., Japan and Europe years in advance to study and craft the best treatment options for cases just like Mike’s.

To reopen the tiny arteries in the far corners of Mike’s lungs, Dr. Schimmel performed a minimally invasive balloon pulmonary angioplasty. Using tiny, inflated balloons, Dr. Schimmel was able to gently open the delicate vessels and restore blood flow to Mike’s heart.

After I had the surgery, I was breathing like a teenager living in a 49-year-old body.

It was the first time the procedure had ever been performed in Illinois, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital remains the only hospital in the state with a comprehensive CTEPH program offering both the surgical and minimally invasive procedure.

*Northwestern Memorial Hospital by U.S. News & World Report, 2023–24.

Everyone's a Team

Northwestern Medicine isn’t just a physician paradigm of decision-making…every clinician adds value. At Northwestern Medicine, everyone is part of the team.
–Dr. Schimmel, MD