Young man regains heart function, active lifestyle after cardiogenic shock scare

Braydoen Munoz is grateful for being able to, once again, do the simple things in life after receiving care for a heart condition at LLUH


Brayden Munoz is grateful for being able to, once again, do the simple things in life after receiving care for a heart condition at LLUH.

A mix of fatigue and triumph overcame 22-year-old Brayden Munoz as he shuffled from his hospital bed to a nearby chair. It was the first time he had regained his footing — literally — after several intensive days of transfers and hospitalizations. He ended his journey with a multi-disciplinary team of experts at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC), who had worked to pull Munoz out of cardiogenic shock and perform life-sustaining procedures on his failing heart.

"I don't really cry, but that did get me a bit,” Munoz says, recalling his first few steps after the incident.

A few months after his procedure, Munoz is focused on full recovery and enjoying activities with renewed vigor, including snowboarding, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with family. He regularly follows up with his cardiologist, Antoine Sakr, MD, director of the Heart Failure Program at Loma Linda University International Heart Institute.

Munoz learned to walk again, using a cane for support, as he recovered from an intense hospitalization.

“It has been rewarding to see Brayden return to being a happy, healthy young man with so much adventure ahead of him,” Sakr says.

The circumstances under which Sakr first met Munoz had been starkly different. Munoz had been spending an active summer of 2023 working with his father at a New Mexico-based veteran benefits organization and launching a reptile breeding business on the side when he unexpectedly fell ill. He became incoherent and eventually unresponsive. Care teams at different hospitals in New Mexico and Texas did their best to run diagnostic testing before airlifting Munoz to LLUMC for a higher level of specialized cardiac care.

By the time Munoz arrived at LLUMC, Sakr says his heart was pumping less than one-fifth of the blood it should be able to pump with each beat. Munoz’s diagnosis was fulminant myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle (usually from viral infection), that caused him to enter cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Only an estimated 50–65% of patients survive this challenging condition.

Read: Loma Linda University International Heart Institute sets precedent for cardiogenic shock programs

A multi-disciplinary cardiogenic shock team of interventional cardiologists, heart failure cardiologists, and cardiothoracic surgeons immediately convened to develop a timely, personalized care plan for Munoz. His mother, Rebekah Hinton, says cardiac care team members helped her and the family cope with the trauma of Munoz’s harrowing hospitalization. One memory that stays with her is singing Beatles songs alongside nurses at her son’s bedside.

“They were his biggest cheerleaders and just an amazing team,” Hinton says. “They made us laugh every day, keeping it as light-hearted as possible while also making sure all of our questions were answered and that everybody felt they had enough information.”

Munoz traveled to the cardiac catheterization laboratory where an interventional cardiologist inserted an Impella — a machine that behaves like a support pump when a person’s heart function is weak — into the groin area. He also received medication to help his heart function, steroids to help reduce inflammation, and antibodies to neutralize any viruses.

Meanwhile, Sakr says the cardiac care team continued to strategize about different options for treating Munoz depending on how he responded; they considered moving the Impella heart support pump from the groin area to the arm so Munoz could be more mobile and also began to plan for a heart transplant in case Munoz's heart did not improve.

Within a few days, Munoz’s heart began to strengthen and recover some of its function, enabling care teams to remove the heart support pump altogether. He regained consciousness and became determined to learn to walk and speak properly again. In the end, Munoz, along with his family and his care team, says he was relieved that he was able to retain his native heart as opposed to undergoing a heart transplant.

He says that family, faith, and a trusted care team were at the center of Munoz’s journey and healing.

“I didn't have to be alone throughout any of it,” he says. “My family was there with me the whole time. I couldn't have asked for a better care team that did everything that needed to be done while also taking care of my emotional needs and checking in on me.”

Sakr says partaking in Munoz's care, watching his health improve and his family rejoice, has been gratifying for the International Heart Institute's care teams.

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