Watching a person die from cardiac arrest in an intensive care unit is devastating. It’s especially so when the person is a woman in her 40s who has been smothered to death by her own weight — and we doctors can do nothing to save her.
This 500-pound patient, who was at a county hospital in Georgia where I was working, had respiratory failure caused by obesity hypoventilation syndrome, a breathing disorder. It was just the tip of the iceberg of her medical problems. Her obesity had contributed to the development of heart failure, which led to kidney failure that necessitated dialysis. Her respiratory failure required mechanical ventilation, which placed her lungs at increased risk for infection. And so she developed pneumonia not too long after being placed on the ventilator.
While we “saved” her after the initial cardiac arrest, her weakened heart and body arrested again. Unable to overcome all of these odds, this patient died in the hospital’s ICU.