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Blood clot treatment saves firefighter at HCA Florida Memorial

Jun 27, 2023

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This week is National EMS Week, a time to celebrate the work EMS personnel do in our communities. From transporting patients to hospitals and even performing life-saving care, EMS are often on the frontlines of healthcare.

"I was still active, going to the gym," said Donnie Griffis. For 40 years Griffis saved lives as a firefighter in Waycross, Georgia. But in 2021 he was the one who needed help.

"I started hurting in my back and one evening it just kept getting worse and worse so I wound up going to the emergency room," said Griffis.

Griffis needed more care than could be provided in Waycross so he was sent by helicopter to HCA Memorial in Jacksonville.

"It was pretty alarming, I had my family there, we talked," said Griffis, "we actually said our goodbyes."

The man who saved people from burning buildings for 4 decades had what is called a "saddle blanket" clot, which is a blood clot that covers both of his lungs. Ultrasound pictures of Griffis's procedure show where blood was restricted from parts of the lungs due to blood clots.

That's when Dr. Mohannad Bisharat and the Pulmonary Embolism Response Team (PERT) went to work to remove the clot.

"I was actually laying there on the surgery room awake and he's sitting besides me telling me we're taking this out and I hear him talking to the rest of the staff saying I'm getting this piece and another piece," said Griffis about what he remembered from being on the operating table with Dr. Bisharat.

Those pieces turned out to be blood blots that were 8 and 9 inches long and larger than a marker. Another ultrasound image of Griffis's lungs show dark imaging, which indicates blood flowing throughout the lung after the removal of the clots.

"Dr. Bisharat, thank goodness was on duty, or his time to come in and did an excellent job, very grateful," said Griffis.

2 years removed from an emergency procedure to remove a clot, Donnie Griffis, the retired firefighter is enjoying his favorite career... being a grandpa.

"If I wasn't transported down here I wouldn't have made it," said Griffis, "I'm just grateful that everything worked out."

Recently results and success of the blood clot procedures performed by Dr. Bisharat and the team at HCA Memorial were included in the journal of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography & Interventions.