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Calgary woman saved from deadly COVID-19 blood clot thanks to new device

Last Updated Aug 19, 2021 at 5:32 pm EDT

Brenda Crowell was recently freed of a deadly blood clot brought on by COVID-19 that's to doctors and a new medical device (pictured here). (PHOTO: Nick Blakeney, CityNews Calgary)

CALGARY – A Calgary woman who developed a deadly blood clot from COVID-19 was saved by a new medical device.

It’s a Canadian first.

Brenda Crowell was rushed to Foothills Medical Centre in May, where she was resuscitated after being clinically dead for more than 30 minutes due to blood clots that caused a pulmonary embolism.

“Technically I was dead,” she said. “It’s very overwhelming, it’s hard to believe. I was in the hospital for 27 days.”

Crowell initially only had mild symptoms of COVID-19, then there was worsening shortness of breath. It got extremely bad one day and that is when she was rushed to hospital.

“I had gone into full cardiac arrest by the time I got to hospital, and so they revived me and put me into a medically induced coma so they could intubate me.”

She was in a coma for over a week and spent a lengthy stint in the ICU.

At this point, doctors realized they needed to step in and stop the situation from getting worse.

“Brenda’s heart was doing extremely poorly, and we knew that there was a large amount of blood clots in her lungs,” said Dr. Jason Wong.

Physicians used a new device, called the Indigo Lightning CAT12, to quickly extract the embolism from the woman’s lungs.


“It’s like strips of blood clot,” said Wong. “(The device) is smart enough to tell when the tip of this is actually engaged in blood clot and when it is just in free-flowing blood, which is really important. Because you can imagine this like a fancy vacuum if you will.”

The CAT12 is a catheter the size of a large straw, but similar devices that also exist would not be capable of being this precise.

Doctors said the process to remove the clots with the device is minimally invasive, though it did involve going through blood vessels in the heart and going down to the lungs to find the clots.

At numerous times during her hospital stay, Crowell said it was touch-and-go, and it was extremely hard for her family.

“My son, who at the time was 18, said ‘mom we didn’t know if we’d be planning your funeral,'” she said with tears welling up. “He reminded me when we were out, and he said at one point ‘my mom was the sickest person in the ICU for a couple of days’. Now, that’s a claim to fame you don’t want to have.”

She said it is still surreal to think back on the near-death experience and hopes this can serve as a message to other people to take the virus seriously. Initially, she said she was on the fence about getting the vaccine but the health scare changed her mind and she now has two doses of a vaccine along with her husband and son.

“You still have to be careful. You still have to, if you need to, wear a mask. Wash your hands, get the vaccine. It’s going to help,” she said. “Hopefully you don’t end up with a major blood clot in your lung like I did.”

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