Surviving several procedures, including open-heart surgery

By The Health News Team | February 1, 2023
David Robles Sharp Memorial Hospital patient

“I deeply appreciate the support that Sharp provided for me — and my wife,” says David Robles.

In late March 2022, Elizabeth Sanchez immediately knew something was wrong. Her husband, David Robles, grimaced while clenching his chest in the backyard. Although he had simply been doing light yard work, David was suddenly nauseated and light-headed, struggling to catch his breath.

Elizabeth immediately took David, a Marine veteran, to a naval base hospital. There, she learned he was having a heart attack.

The first of several procedures

David was soon transferred to Sharp Memorial Hospital while connected to a venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) machine. The bypass device can swap oxygen-starved blood for oxygen-rich blood and provide heart and lung support, allowing the heart to recover.

Due to the extent of David’s heart attack, however, the mitral valve in his heart had ruptured and was leaking. And he was too weak for open-heart surgery.

Instead, David underwent a MitraClip™ procedure performed by Dr. Arvin Narula, a Sharp Community Medical Group cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Memorial. The procedure helped carefully decrease the leaking mitral valve to stabilize David’s condition.

Subsequently, David endured an hemorrhagic stroke and received a craniotomy, performed by Dr. Sohaib Kureshi, a Sharp Community Medical Group neurosurgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial. The surgery, in which a small hole is made in the skull, relieved the swelling in David’s brain.

Over the next several weeks, David had to relearn how to swallow, talk and walk.

Quality of care for patients and their families

David was discharged in June. However, he returned to Sharp Memorial shortly after with pulmonary edema, which occurs when too much fluid develops in the lungs.

Elizabeth and David consulted with Mary Scarlett, manager of ECMO, Cardiac Surgery and Cardiology at Sharp Memorial, about long-term treatment options. “My husband was unusually lethargic and spitting out phlegm,” says Elizabeth. “I was glad Mary was there again, as she supported us from the very beginning.”

Elizabeth leaned on David’s Sharp care team and her son for support. “I’m really thankful for the high-level care offered at Sharp Memorial as well as the kindness I received from its staff,” says Elizabeth.

A repaired heart — and new lease on life

According to Scarlett, “with time and treatment” at Sharp Memorial, David’s condition had improved enough to become a good candidate for open-heart surgery. David underwent mitral and aortic valve replacements with Dr. Karl Limmer, a Sharp Community Medical Group cardiothoracic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial.

Dr. Limmer says most people in David’s situation do not survive after experiencing various cardiac and neurologic issues of this extent. “Mr. Robles was a fighter, though,” he says. “It was remarkable to work with him and his wife. I could tell he was very much loved.”

In July, David was discharged once again and he returned home to gradually participate in his hobbies, including hiking and walking on the beach. “I deeply appreciate the support that Sharp provided for me — and my wife — during all the times when I was in and out of the hospital,” he says.

Elizabeth echoes her husband’s sentiment. “Everyone at Sharp Memorial was tremendously compassionate. They saved David’s life. We’re grateful for Sharp — forever grateful,” she says.

Learn more about heart and vascular care at Sharp.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Arvin Narula, Dr. Sohaib Kureshi, Dr. Karl Limmer or Mary Scarlett about this story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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