Patient Celebrates Re-Birthday with Mercy Doctor

February 17, 2023

ST. LOUIS - “I’m convinced if Dr. Fotouhi had not been in the room that day, it would have been my last day on earth.”

Mike Johns, 70, now celebrates his re-birthday each year, the day his heart stopped twice during an open-heart surgery and he was brought back to life.

Mercy doctor's coat Mike Johns in the hospital after his quadruple bypass.

Four years ago, following a routine hip replacement surgery, Johns developed pneumonia and other issues leading to an echocardiogram. It was then doctors noticed a problem; Johns had an ejection fraction of 24%, meaning only 24% of his total amount of blood in the left ventricle was pushed out with each heartbeat.

He was scheduled for a quadruple bypass but first had to recover from the hip surgery.

“Mike had a very weak heart and few alternatives, so we planned for an extremely high-risk bypass,” said Dr. Farzin Fotouhi, Mercy Clinic Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. “Even before we started surgery, he went into cardiac arrest, and we jumped into action.”

While there are no stats on how often this happens, Dr. Fotouhi said it’s rare. “We do 400 to 500 open heart cases a year at Mercy St. Louis, and this type of scenario happens maybe once a year.”

Fortunately for Johns, because he was surrounded by experts, he had a better chance of survival than if he had gone into cardiac arrest in other settings.

Dr. Fotouhi immediately opened Johns’ chest to perform lifesaving measures.

“I was dead,” Johns said. “They had already gone out to tell my family I was gone, but Dr. Fotouhi refused to give up. I was told he heroically massaged my heart for nearly 50 minutes to get it going again.”

Johns’ heart was beating again but stopped a second time during the procedure. Once again, Dr. Fotouhi brought him back.

Mercy doctor's coat Mike Johns surrounded by his family this past Christmas.

“His heart, which was weak to start, got even worse during the arrest,” Dr. Fotouhi said. “We inserted a special device to assist his heart during and shortly after surgery.”

Thinking back on his conversation prior to surgery, Johns said he told Dr. Fotouhi that if anything went wrong, he was ok. Johns said, “I don’t think he was going to let me have my way.”

According to Dr. Fotouhi, Johns’ heart started to get stronger, and the device was removed before he went home from Mercy Rehab 14 days later.

Each year, Johns celebrates his re-birthday. This year, he surprised Dr. Fotouhi with a birthday cake.

“These experiences and passionate, grateful patients are what remind us clinicians that long hours of stressful work and performing complex operations are well worth it and are not left unrecognized,” Dr. Fotouhi said. “I was touched to see he made a special effort to visit us with a birthday cake to celebrate with us.”

“He gave me four years I didn’t have coming,” Johns said.

Mercy doctor's coat Mike Johns brought a cake to Dr. Farzin Fotouhi, a celebration of Johns' re-birthday.