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Bermuda man escapes amputation, then survives stroke

Doctors told Ottiwell Simmons that he would lose his right leg. Lenox Hill surgeons saw another way.

When Ottiwell Simmons, 85, of Bermuda, felt his right leg go cold and numb, he suspected that something was seriously wrong.

Doctors were quick to discover a blood clot in his leg - a severe blockage was hampering blood-flow, putting the limb in jeopardy. With time running out, physicians offered him a single option: above the knee amputation.

Last minute salvage

But Mr. Simmons' daughter, Emma Williams, insisted on finding another way. She couldn't bear to see her father - a spirited, active man and former union leader who walked around town every day - lose his mobility, just yet.

Local physicians helped Ms. Williams reach Varinder Singh, MD, chair of cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital, who agreed to give a second opinion and see if Mr. Simmons' leg could be saved. He arranged to get Mr. Simmons transferred to Lenox Hill as quickly as possible.

"Timing was absolutely critical," Dr. Singh said. "Once the muscle dies, the leg is in trouble even if blood flow is restored."

Mr. Simmons was flown to New York by air ambulance, where Lenox Hill's vascular surgeons awaited his arrival. Under the direction of Alfio Carroccio, MD, chief of vascular surgery, surgeon Khalil Qato, MD, and the rest of the team removed the clot just in time, restoring circulation and ultimately, saving the leg from amputation.

quotation mark After all that’s happened, today looks like a ray of sunshine.
Ottiwell Simmons

A second blood clot

A few days later, Mr. Simmons was ready to leave the hospital and return home to Bermuda. But suddenly, he felt that he couldn't move the left side of his body. A second blood clot had surfaced - this time, heading for the brain.

Rafael Ortiz, MD, chief of neuroendovascular surgery and interventional neuroradiology, stepped in right away to aspirate the clot, sparing Mr. Simmons from a life-threatening stroke.

"This turned out to be a double salvage," Dr. Carroccio said. "At the first signs of stroke, the patient was sent for a CT scan and immediately treated by our neuro interventional team."

"The teamwork I witnessed, from the international efforts to arrange the air ambulance to the clinical collaboration between all the services at Lenox Hill, was extraordinary," Dr. Singh added.

Back in Bermuda

Known by many around Bermuda as "Otti," Mr. Simmons gained popularity as an advocate for the country's labor movement and served as president of the Bermuda Industrial Union from 1974-1996.

Following the second procedure, Mr. Simmons was nearly back to his regular, vibrant self.

"After all that's happened, today looks like a ray of sunshine," Mr. Simmons said. "I thank each person on the Lenox Hill staff for their service and expertise. And I especially thank my daughter, who was key in the way everything fell into place."

"Timing was absolutely critical. Once the muscle dies, the leg is in trouble even if blood flow is restored."
— Varinder Singh, MD
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