Helping an Olympian win his toughest match
When you are a top-ranked athlete on the U.S. Olympic fencing team, blisters come with the territory. But when Keeth Smart awoke to a mouthful of hemorrhaging blood blisters, he took notice. Within 48 hours, his gums were bleeding and his body was covered with bloody lesions. He came directly to NYM.
When he arrived in the Emergency Department, the staff knew immediately that he was in critical condition: from a normal range of 150,000 to 400,000, Keeth’s platelets had gone down to just 3,000. The attending physicians paged Muthuswamy Krishnamurthy, M.D., chief of hematology/oncology. When Dr. Krishnamurthy heard the details of the case, he rushed to the Hospital to evaluate Keeth. Dr. Krishnamurthy determined that Keeth was suffering from a rare condition called onyalai, which is a type of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) — a low platelet count from no known cause. Keeth remembers, “Dr. Krishnamurthy stayed at my side until I was admitted and settled into a room. He brought my wife and family up to speed with a terrific bedside manner. He really went above and beyond the call of duty for my family and me. My sister Erin is also on the U.S. Olympic fencing team, and she knew what was at stake.”
“Front and center in his mind was getting back on the practice mat,” Dr. Krishnamurthy recalls of his patient. “The Olympics were just around the corner, and Keeth had worked his entire life for the opportunity to participate. We wanted to make sure that we did everything we could to get him to the Olympics, but onyalai is extremely serious. One knock to the head and he could experience bleeding in the brain. Keeth is enormously talented, but he is also enormously lucky even to still be alive.”
Keeth began a protocol of intensive treatments. Dr. Krishnamurthy worked closely with a physician from the International Olympic Committee to ensure that they were fully aware of Keeth’s condition and the steps taken in his treatment.
After five days of inpatient care, Keeth was able to return home, and soon he also returned to the practice mat. He went on to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as did his sister Erin. Keeth brought home a silver medal.
“We are still researching what may have caused this—perhaps it was triggered by something I ate during the Olympic qualifying matches in Algeria—but I feel so lucky to have had Dr. Krishnamurthy as my doctor. He was absolutely amazing; the entire staff was absolutely amazing, and I am forever in debt for their services. I live in Ditmas Park. There are other hospitals that are closer, but I had heard such good things about New York Methodist, and I can attest that they are true.”
Read more about Keeth Smart in the 2008 NYM Annual Report.