Local Teacher’s Life Saved After Cardiac Arrest Shortly After Diagnosis Of COVID-19
In mid-December, Brettlynn Wolff, 39, got tested for COVID-19 as a precaution for her family’s well being. Her test came back positive, and within a few days, she experienced what seemed to be a short-lived fainting spell. The next morning, Wolff, a fifth-grade teacher at Campbell Drive K-8 Center, woke up breathing heavily.
Her husband, Donald Bravo, noticed she was struggling to breathe. He quickly rushed over to her, laid her on the floor, called 911, and began performing CPR until the paramedics arrived at their Cutler Bay home to transport her to Jackson South Medical Center on December 18.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) paramedics administered a therapeutic shock while in route to try to reestablish a normal heart rhythm.
Andrew Pastewski, MD, ICU medical director at Jackson, and his team knew that every second was crucial for Brettlynn’s survival. What they found was possible brain damage, and a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, that brought on myocarditis, a severe inflammation of the heart. She had to be put on a ventilator to breathe.
“Due to the lack of oxygen, there was evidence of brain damage, so we decided that the best approach was the hypothermia protocol. Freezing her for a day would prevent further brain damage,” said Dr. Pastewski. “It was unknown if her brain was salvageable, and we noticed in an X-ray that this could’ve been caused by COVID-19 but could also be attributed to heart failure.”
The outlook for the mother of two began to look grim.
Dr. Pastewski consulted with cardiologist Juan Zambrano, MD, who performed an echocardiogram (EKG) to determine heart function and found that Brettlynn’s heart was only functioning at 10 percent. Usually, COVID-19 affects the lungs, but in this case, it was debilitating her heart.
The cardiology team, led by Dr. Zambrano, performed a minimally invasive procedure in which a small heart pump was placed into her body to help maintain blood flow to her body’s organs.
Wolff’s body was in a state of shock, and this procedure was a last resort to treat her failing heart before doctors would recommend she need a heart transplant at the Miami Transplant Institute.
Throughout the ordeal, Wolff’s husband – who lost his mother to COVID-19 just months before – never lost hope, and neither did the medical team that was caring for her.
Just before Christmas, Wolff’s oxygenation improved and she opened her eyes.
“The best Christmas present I received was learning that my wife was conscious and that her heart was working again without needing the balloon pumps,” said Bravo. “It was almost like she was reborn: it was a miracle — a Christmas and a Jackson miracle!”
A few days later, she no longer required blood pressure support and was maintaining blood pressure on her own. There were no signs of brain damage, and she was taken off the ventilator on December 28.
Myocarditis, which Wolff suffered from, is a rare complication from COVID-19, and most patients do not survive. But the educator beat the odds and was discharged on January 26 with a walker.
Wolff’s road to recovery has not been easy. After leaving the hospital, Wolff needed dialysis for her kidneys. To regain her strength, she underwent intense physical and occupational therapy three hours a day.
“The choices that they made for my life, were the right choices in those moments,” said Wolff. “I am extremely grateful to these experts who gave it all, to give me a second chance at life.”
On Thursday, February 25, Wolff and her family will come back to Jackson South to thank the medical team that saved her life, and meet representatives from MDFR.
Brettlynn Wolff, patient; Donald Bravo, patient’s husband; Andrew Pastewski, MD, ICU medical director; Juan Zambrano, MD, cardiologist; representatives from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
1:45pm, Thursday, February 25, 2021
Jackson South Medical Center
9333 S.W. 152 Street
Miami, FL 33157
Media can pull up to the lobby area to park – tentative of available parking spaces. Bilingual speakers available.