For more information: Emergency and Trauma Services, Sharp Memorial Hospital
Dre Dominguez: I went to work that morning and I had this overwhelming sick feeling and I went to work and I thought, "Oh man, I've just got to get into work and they'll see that I don't feel good and then I can go home."
Daniel King, Fireman Engineer Paramedic, San Diego Fire Rescue: That morning it was really the first call of the morning. I hadn't really seen her, I can only see her in passing at the station. It was a simple medical aid. We happened to arrive at the same time the ambulance did so there were already several other paramedics there along with us.
Dre: We grabbed the equipment and we went upstairs in the elevator and I walked out. I went to walk up to the patient and I felt super short of breath.
Daniel: We were considering calling an ambulance for her, taking her to one of the urgent care. She kind of denied it. "I think I'm feeling better," drove back to the station and she immediately got in the car and left, was going to go to a real doctor.
Dre: It got worse and worse as I got home and I thought, "Nothing's getting better" so I told my roommate, "I need to go to the ER now."
Dr. David Willms, Medical Director of Critical Care Services, Sharp Memorial Hospital: Dre came in through our emergency department with an abrupt onset of a very severe asthma attack. She was treated very aggressively with the usual kinds of therapies for an asthma attack but she got very much worse within a short period of time and shortly after being admitted to the hospital had to be intubated.
Dre: I actually told one of the chiefs that were there helping me, "As a friend, don't let them intubate me because I don't think I'm going to come back." I just had that impending doom feeling.
Dr. Willms: She had one of the most severe cases of an asthma attack that we've ever seen and was not only not responding well to the usual medications but even while she was on the mechanical ventilator — breathing machine — she wasn't doing well.
Daniel: This was right around at the same time that we're finding out that this is very serious and she might not even last a day. And then we hear about this bypass type of machine is how they described to us or in layman's terms it's an ECMO device and the idea behind it.
Dr. Willms: A simple way to think of it is like putting a patient on a heart-lung machine where the blood is removed from the body through a large tube placed in a vein in the body and then circulated through an artificial lung so we were able to turn the ventilator way down so that the pressures went way down and allowed her lungs to rest and for the treatments for her asthma to take effect at which time then we could get her off the ECMO.
Daniel: That thing saved her life. She was the right candidate. She has the physical fitness before and the right mindset but if it wasn't for that there was no way she was going to live, I think.
Dr. Willms: Given her age and her occupation it's even more of a happy story because of the good that she can give back to the community and people that she takes care of.
Dre: Everything has returned to normal. My pulmonary function levels are 125 percent. I've had two separate doctors tell me that I have supernatural lungs. I've done CrossFit, I've done dirt biking, I've gone surfing and I've been able to return to every activity that I've done before.
There's not a day that goes by in my life since I've been here that I haven't told my story and my story is about the staff at Sharp Memorial. They really worked for me. I had phenomenal care and they really performed a miracle and I thank them every day that I walk around and today's a good day. Thank you, because these people at Sharp, they really did the job.