Cowansville Man Receives Life Saving Care at ACMH Hospital

KITTANNING, PA. (July 25, 2023)  -  Robert (Dusty) Brunner, 63, of Cowansville is recovering at ACMH Hospital following a successful emergency pulmonary embolism thrombectomy.

On Saturday, July 22, Robert Brunner, known to friends and family as “Dusty”, knew something was wrong when he experienced difficulty breathing. Instead of seeking out medical care initially, Dusty attributed the discomfort to what he described as “age catching up with me.”

In reality, Dusty was suffering from an acute massive pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that blocks and stops blood flow to an artery in the lung. In most cases, the blood clot starts in a deep vein in the leg and travels to the lung. When a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body, it's called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). When it travels to the lung, it can affect breathing and oxygenation.

Because one or more clots block blood flow to the lungs, pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. However, prompt treatment greatly reduces the risk of death.

When Dusty finally decided the discomfort and difficulty breathing was too much, he asked to be taken to the hospital, and was driven to ACMH by a neighbor.

Upon arrival, ACMH Emergency Department, Imaging and Cardiac Catheterization Lab teams quickly mobilized and coordinated efforts to evaluate and treat Mr. Brunner.

“I was hardly in the door when they began working on me,” Dusty explained from his bed at ACMH Hospital, where he is recovering comfortably. “Before I even knew it, I was in surgery.”

ACMH staff recognized the severity of the blockage and acted quickly to coordinate an emergency intervention.

 “They explained everything to me as it was happening and I can tell that they truly cared,” Dusty went on to say. “I am most impressed by the great nurses and care I received. I couldn’t be happier.”

Interventional cardiologist Dr. Ramzi Khalil led the ACMH Cardiac Cath Team through a successful mechanical thrombectomy of the massive bilateral pulmonary embolism allowing safe and early recovery of the patient.

“This could have been a totally different outcome if Mr. Brunner had not come to us immediately, when he did,” said Dr. Khalil. “Upon completion of the procedure, the patient's heart rate, blood pressure and oxygenation markedly improved. He felt markedly better and on the second day, he was breathing on his own without any oxygen.”

Nichole Geraci, ACMH Hospital President and CEO, acknowledged the numerous teams of healthcare professionals involved. “Mr. Brunner’s case is not unlike many here at ACMH,” she stated. “We respond when needed and provide life-saving interventions, 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.”

“I want to personally thank each and every member of our team who helped facilitate the positive outcome in this case. It is just one story of many that happen here all the time. We are grateful that Mr. Brunner has allowed us to share his story in an effort to help others who may be suffering with underlying conditions like he was.”

Rose Brunner of Butler, PA, Dusty’s sister, also expressed her thanks to ACMH Hospital. “We are so grateful for Kittanning Hospital (ACMH) and the care that everyone gave my brother here,” she said. “Before our mom passed away, I promised her that I would take care of my baby brother, and ACMH did take great care of him. I am very impressed with the communication and care all around.”

Ms. Geraci reminds the community to call an ambulance when experiencing cardiac symptoms. “We are grateful that Mr. Brunner arrived at our door in time to receive life-saving care. We strongly recommend that individuals experiencing heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke symptoms call 911 immediately. We do not recommend that patients drive themselves or a loved one to the hospital,” Geraci continued. “Important care starts in the ambulance, and vital communication is happening behind the scenes with ACMH teams prior to the patient’s arrival. These factors can truly mean the difference between life and death.”

Dusty joins ACMH in encouraging the community to learn the signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, and act quickly.

“Don’t just say you should get it checked, like I did at first,” Dusty said. “You go, right away!”

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism can vary depending on how much of the lung is involved, size of the embolus and whether there was any underlying lung or heart disease.

Common symptoms include:

-          Shortness of breath: typically occurs suddenly and is worsened on exertion

-          Chest pain: It can be confused with the Chest pain of heart attack. Pain worsens on inspiration (pleurisy), cough, bending or stooping. Pain gets worse on exertion but does not reduce on rest

-          Cough: cough may be associated with blood or blood-streaked sputum production

Other symptoms that can occur include:

-          Pain or swelling in the leg; usually in the calf region

-          Discolored skin

-          Fever

-          Excessive sweating

-          Rapid or irregular heartbeat

-          Dizziness or light-headedness


Robert (Dusty) Brunner recovers at ACMH Hospital following a successful emergency pulmonary embolism catheterization. He is joined here by his sister, Rose Brunner of Butler, PA.


(L to R)

Jolene Bierer, RN Cath lab and Interventional Radiology

Dixie Perrine, RN Cath lab and Interventional Radiology

Crystal Tomsey, RTR, Cath lab and Interventional Radiology Technologist

Dr. Ramzi Khalil, AGH McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute

Ellena Anthony, RTR, Cath lab and Interventional Radiology Technologist