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A good heart in good hands

Complex cardiac surgery saves a young husband and father


Brian McNeill, Dr. Muhammad Aftab, and Kelsey McNeill

Brian McNeill, Dr. Muhammad Aftab, and Kelsey McNeill


It started with leg pain.

Brian McNeill, a husband and father of two young daughters, went into the emergency room in Salida, Colorado, because the pain in his leg was so severe. Doctors discovered a blood clot in the popliteal artery, and Brian was immediately airlifted to Colorado Springs for an emergency surgery to have the clot removed. A doctor there, at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, recommended that Brian seek out specialized care to determine the underlying cause of the clot.

Brian and his wife, Kelsey, came to UCHealth's University of Colorado Hospital, where our doctors discovered an additional clot in an artery in Brian’s arm. Even more concerning, another test showed a large, seaweed-like clump on his heart's aortic valve.

Brian had the clot removed from his arm in late September. Then, on October 1, he had heart surgery with Muhammad Aftab, MD. The 14-hour surgery included a graft, a coronary bypass, and an aortic root replacement. At one point, Dr. Aftab hand-massaged Brian’s heart to keep the blood pumping while an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine was hooked up.

Brian is sure he would not be alive today without the medical care he received from Dr. Aftab and the UCHealth team. You can read more about the ups and downs of his incredible journey on the CU Anschutz Today website:

‘I sometimes can't believe I'm here’: Surgeon, CU Anschutz medical team play key roles in man's miraculous journey of the heart