David Hubbard, 50, pays close attention to detail. The associate-senior project manager with a local architectural firm easily recalls the month-long journey from hospitals, Emergency Departments, doctors’ offices and operating rooms that led to a tearful exchange between his wife, Pam, and Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Kyle Zimmerman. “They hugged and cried a bit,” David adds. “He described it as an astonishing fourth quarter victory.”
It all started in March when David woke up in pain. “I thought initially I had slept wrong and was having a spasm, but soon I realized I must be passing a kidney stone,” he recalls. The first trip to the Emergency Department revealed kidney stones in his left kidney. David followed up with his urologist upon discharge, who also mentioned a cyst discovered in the CT scan. After pain returned a few weeks later, the urologist grew more concerned about the mass on his kidney and determined it would be best to surgically remove it.
May 7, David arrived for surgery, which took much longer than expected, as the mass was the size of a baseball, not the golf ball as previously believed. Then he received a call May 16 from the surgeon. “He said the mass was a renal cell carcinoma type II,” says David. “Sort of a gut shot.”
A friend of David’s had recently been diagnosed with kidney cancer, which David says, helped prepare him for this news. The surgeon reassured David it was caught early. “He said, ‘there is a high probability it will not grow as it was caught early and it is not a very aggressive cancer.’ I guess at this point it moves me over into the category of survivor.”
David’s relief was short-lived as he woke in excruciating pain following surgery. This time it was his left leg – skin purplish and swollen. David was unable to walk. As the pain worsened, his wife decided to call 911. “The house was a fury of firemen, fire trucks, stretchers, and EMSA crew,” he recalls. I am sitting at the foot of the bed with half a dozen men buzzing around me. Not my best moment.” He was told at the hospital there was nothing they really could do, but wait to see if blood thinners would work. He waited for 10 days.
What happened next, some may say, was about being in the right place at the right time. Visiting with his primary care physician, Dr. David Kondos, he learned of a new vein clinic at Oklahoma Heart Institute, which might be able to help him. Dr. Kondos had attended a seminar earlier that week and met Dr. Zimmerman. “I left one doctor’s office and headed to another,” David says. “Dr. Zimmerman saw me immediately and graciously scheduled me that day at Hillcrest.”
The window of time to potentially fix the deep vein thrombrosis (DVT) causing the swelling and pain in David’s leg was closing. Later that night, Dr. Zimmerman began the removal of the acute clot. “Dr. Zimmerman was able to restore about 70 percent of the blood flow in an operation that lasted more than 3 hours,” David recalls. However, another clot in his abdomen proved to be more stubborn and could not be removed.
Dr. Zimmerman updated David on the surgery, indicating it was not as successful as he had hoped. As they discussed the surgery, David remembers quickly falling ill. “I hunkered down under several layers of blankets and a quilt Pam’s grandmother made 60 or more years ago, but couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering,” he says. “I drifted off to sleep and woke with a 103 degree temperature.”
Thankfully, the following morning, as Dr. Zimmerman prepared for a second surgery, David’s fever subsided. This time, Dr. Zimmerman was able to break up the clot in David’s abdomen.
Dr. Zimmerman explains the treatment. “Mr. Hubbard's case was unique as many vein cases are,” shares Dr. Zimmerman. “The first day we brought him in, I believed that he had a chronic occlusion of his left main pelvic vein, a condition referred to as May-Thurner or ileocaval obstructive syndrome with an acute occlusion of his left leg veins. Utilizing the Trellis device I was able to remove a significant clot with both medication and the device, but I was not able to reestablish mainstream flow back into his inferior vena cava, the main vein of the body draining blood back to the heart. His blood flow in his left leg was better, but I was not satisfied with the result. On Monday when we called and I heard he was not better I felt he needed to come back in. I decided to leave a catheter in his leg overnight to drip clot-busting drugs. The catheter was placed in from behind his knee, which I knew would not be comfortable for him, but he was so patient and understanding and really unbelievably strong. The next day I was able to re-establish the mainstream flow out of his left leg into the inferior vena cava. With venoplasty (balloon inflated in a vein) and additional clot removal with an Angio jet pulse spray device, most of the clot was removed from his left leg and pelvic vessels.”
When Dr. Zimmerman walked into the OR waiting area to share the good news with Pam, he was “grinning from ear to ear” Pam told David. “I truly believe that Dr. Zimmerman and his staff saved me from a permanent disability,” David shares. “I feel there was a high probability that I would have had to go onto disability, as I would have been unable to sit for periods of time without swelling and pain. I felt better immediately after he was able to get the blood flowing again. My wife and I cannot believe the progress I have made since coming home from the hospital. Truly remarkable.”
“Thank you, Dr. Zimmerman and all the staff at Hillcrest for all you have been able to do for me.”