David Asencio’s story

Seemingly out of nowhere, David Asencio had trouble breathing. No chest pains, but his daughter Angie could see the 76-year-old’s face was turning purple. After a 9-1-1 call, paramedics took David to Royal Columbian Hospital, where a large blood clot was found to be dangerously lodged in his lungs.

“Being a new immigrant, he hadn’t really been in a hospital here in Canada,” says Angie about her dad, who had just arrived from the Philippines a month before. “He was really anxious, but they made him very comfortable.”

A CT scan revealed a rare blockage known as saddle pulmonary embolism, which is life threatening. Internal medicine physician Dr. Terry Chu says it can cause stress on both the lungs and the heart.

“The main pulmonary artery has two major branches with one going to the left lung and one to the right, much like a Y shape,” explains Dr. Chu. “This clot crosses the main intersection and straddles into the left and right branches. It is quite a serious case to see on the CT scan”

Fortunately, David did not have any serious problems with blood pressure or oxygenation. That allowed the medical team to bypass some of the more urgent treatments in favour of blood thinners to help stabilize the clot until the body can get rid of it naturally.

David was placed in Royal Columbian’s High Acuity Unit, which is meant for patients who need closer observation than a general unit but don’t require the full resources of the Intensive Care Unit.

“English is not his first language, and he has difficulty hearing,” notes his daughter. “But they were very thorough in taking care of him, and somehow the staff would send someone who understood more of his language. That really made him very comfortable.”

After a few days, David was discharged from Royal Columbian but in need of follow up care to further understand the cause of the large clot. Being new to the country with no family physician, the family is grateful to Dr. Chu for seeing David through the next few months of his treatment.

“It’s really added to his recovery,” says Angie. “Dr. Chu is very encouraging. He is very friendly ,and he clearly explained the diagnosis and the course of the treatment.”

“I’m feeling well,” adds David. “My health is improving.”

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