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  • Writer's pictureNate Scharping

This Patient Was Already Battling Organ Failure. Was He Having a Heart Attack, Too?

He was already unconscious when the alarm went off. But what first seemed like a classic heart attack turned out to be anything but.

Credit: Towfiqu barbhuiya/Unsplash

The symptoms that brought Louis to the Keck Hospital of University of Southern California seemed less than concerning at first glance. The 41-year-old said he’d been feeling weak and short of breath for the past three weeks, and his feet were swollen.

But vague symptoms can sometimes conceal life-threatening dangers. Soon after arriving, Louis spiraled into respiratory distress, spurring doctors to rush him to the intensive care unit and place him on mechanical ventilation. There, a rapid-fire series of diagnostic tests revealed an escalating crisis: Louis had lymphoma, a cancer that affects the body’s pathogen-fighting lymphatic system. Unnoticed, the cancer had spread, eventually sending him into shock as his organs began to shut down.

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