Quick Actions, A Life Saved

This past March, all Ali Zafar-Khan was looking forward to was completing his senior year at USC, getting ready for graduation and preparing for medical school applications. 

“I grew up in the hospital,” says Ali, whose dad is a nephrologist. 

The last thing he ever expected was a trip to the emergency room. 

Having bouts of recurring tonsillitis for the last two years led him to developing a periodontal abscess, which affected his qualityAli Zafar-Khan at the 16th Annual California Hospital Golf Classic on September 19, 2023 of life from sore throats to sleep apnea. He and his primary care physician determined that a tonsillectomy was the best option to improve his well-being. 

An Unexpected Turn of Events

The surgery came and went, and his post-op visit went well. However, the day after his post-op visit is when things went from well to worse. Around 5 a.m. that morning, Ali awoke to clear his mouth of what he thought was saliva. To his shock, it was blood.

“I gave it about a minute to see if the bleeding would start to subside, and it did not,” said the 21-year-old student. “Every time I spit, there was more blood. I could feel it gushing in my throat…and the worst part is that you can’t really apply pressure on it [to stop it].” 

Trying to remain calm, Ali knew he needed to go to the hospital immediately and his roommates called 911. As soon as the paramedics loaded him into the ambulance, he began vomiting blood. 

Assessing the Situation 

Dr. Joshua Partnow“Ali arrived at California Hospital’s ED having sustained a life-threatening post operative tonsillectomy bleed,” says Dr. Joshua Partnow, the attending emergency medicine doctor on staff that day. “He was in hemorrhagic shock with unstable vital signs and a potential airway emergency. He was scared, pale, sweaty, actively hemorrhaging large volumes of blood both internally and externally from the back of his throat on the verge of losing consciousness. As an emergency medicine doctor it is about as concerning as it gets.” 

Dr. Partnow knew he had to act quickly as time was of the essence to triage Ali.

“I rapidly assessed the severity and lethal nature of his condition and immediately simultaneously mobilized all the hospital’s resources and staff including the outstanding nurses and ED techs,” said Dr. Partnow. “We also performed laboratory work to see how anemic he was, resuscitated him with both intravenous fluid and an uncross-matched blood transfusion, consulted our wonderful ENT Dr. Hayward Eubanks who immediately came in from home to take Ali to the operating room, and communicated in person with Ali’s parents.”

All of this happened in the span of just 30 minutes. 

Dr. Eubanks was able to cauterize the bleed and removed 600 cc (approx. 1.2 pints) of blood from Ali’s stomach. 

Ali credits the quick, responsive actions of California Hospital’s care teams for saving his life. “If nobody took me seriously, if I had waited to go to the ER, I could have easily bled out. The minute I arrived, everyone was taking care of me.”

“It was a terrifying experience, but being around people that make you feel so comfortable, even when you're in that scary situation made me feel so safe,”Ali adds. “The minute I got into that ER bed I just thought to myself, ‘I'm okay, like everything's going to be fine.’”  

The importance of giving back…and charging your cell phone

Ali Zafar-Khan at USC's commencement ceremony May 2023After graduating from USC this past May, Ali decided to take a gap year to travel and focus on self-care before refocusing on applying to medical school. His initial interest was in orthopedics; however, his experience at California Hospital was the catalyst for a new focus: emergency medicine.

“The minute I stepped into the ER, emergency medicine became very, very interesting and I was so inspired by that,” he recalls. 

He recently shared his story with guests at our 16th Annual California Hospital Golf Classic on Sept. 19.

Reflecting on his experience, Ali says, “It was probably one of the worst experiences of my life, but the best experience of the worst experience. Thank you to the care teams who took me seriously when I came and listened to me, and understood my needs throughout the entire stay. They saved my life.”

On a parting note, Ali encourages people to donate blood, since he benefited from life-saving transfusions. He also recommends always having your cell phone charged. His phone’s battery died the morning of the emergency and thankfully one of his roommates was there to call 911 on his behalf. “You never know when something can happen.” 

California Hospital Medical Center is here for everyone

CHMC has the only full-service emergency and trauma center in downtown Los Angeles, serving more than 70,000 patients annually. The new patient tower expansion opening in early 2024 will have 51% more emergency and trauma beds in individual private rooms that will help reduce wait times and allow for increased efficiencies, expand access to the latest technologies and enhance collaboration across multidisciplinary teams—resulting in the best possible care and patient outcomes.

“The new ED will help our team care for the volumes of patients we see like Ali who come to us from various backgrounds with a wide variety of conditions and need our help,” Dr. Partnow adds. 

Give today to reserve your personalized tile and ensure that CHMC continues to deliver compassionate, world class health care services for everyone in our community. 


Photo 1: Ali Zafar-Khan at USC's commencement ceremony May 2023
Photo 2: Dr. Joshua Partnow
Photo 3: Ali Zafar-Khan at the 16th Annual California Hospital Golf Classic on September 19, 2023


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