A Matter of Life or Death

A brilliant doctor and her expert team of specialists worked feverishly and meticulously to save the life of a woman whose organs and body functions were failing rapidly.


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Doctor: Loubaba Houari, MD, Hospitalist, NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital

Patient: Jacqueline Snyder-Allen, 52, Cold Spring

Diagnosis: Pneumonia, Septic Shock


THE PRESENTATION

One morning in early January, 52-year-old mother of two Jacqueline Snyder-Allen wasn’t feeling her usual lively self. Jacqueline, who was healthy and didn’t drink or smoke, thought it was her “annual cold,” she says. “I get it every year, so I wasn’t alarmed.”

Her husband, Tom, however, knew something was amiss; his wife’s breathing was heavy and labored, and she was having a hard time getting dressed. He managed to get her to the car and raced from their home in Cold Spring to NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, where she was immediately admitted to the emergency room.

 

THE JOURNEY 

Upon examination, it was discovered that Jacqueline was in the early stages of septic shock, or sepsis, a blood infection that causes inflammation in the body and, if severe, can lead to organ failure. Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can cause sepsis; in Jacqueline’s case, she unknowingly had bacterial and viral pneumonia.

Soon after she arrived at the ER, her blood pressure dropped; a fever ensued; and her kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart began failing. “She crashed within one hour... literally crashed,” says hospitalist Loubaba Houari, MD, co-chair of  NYP-HV’s intensive care unit. 

Thanks to her husband’s keen intuition and the expertise and precision of hospitalist Loubaba Houari, MD, (center) and her ICU team, Jacqueline Snyder-Allen is alive today.

She was moved to the ICU, where nurses, doctors, infectious-disease experts, and respiratory specialists rushed into action as her body rapidly deteriorated. They stabilized her blood pressure and ventilated her blood with oxygen while managing a deadly fever, toxins in the blood, and organ failures, including a heart attack. In addition to overseeing the ICU team, Dr. Houari had to prepare the family for a grim reality. “We were not expecting her to survive,” Dr. Houari says. “It’s a serious condition.”

After stabilizing her blood pressure and fighting the fever for three days, the medical team started two weeks of dialysis, 10 days on a ventilator and placed a catheter in her body. Jacqueline was in a medically induced coma for two weeks, and, soon after coming off the ventilator, she developed ICU psychosis, a form of delirium or acute brain failure that can happen to patients who are medicated, dehydrated, and in the ICU for an extended period. At one point, Jacqueline was told she was “the sickest person at the hospital.”

In all, Jacqueline spent nearly two weeks in the ICU and a month at the hospital; she was later transferred to Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Hospital in Rockland County, where she continued her physical rehabilitation. 

 

THE OUTCOME

Jacqueline still has a long road ahead, but she’s in good spirits and grateful to the medical staff for delivering what she believes was a life-saving miracle. Had her husband not taken her to the hospital, and had the doctor and her team not acted as quickly and precisely as they did, she would have died. “God put me in the right place, at the right time, under the right care,” she says. “Thank God for the medical staff; they were tremendous.”

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