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Medical student's practice exam turns into real life-saving diagnosis for actor

Jim and Louise Malloy credit medical student Ryan Jones for saving Jim's life during a practice medical exam.
Jim and Louise Malloy credit medical student Ryan Jones for saving Jim's life during a practice medical exam.

Ryan Jones may not be done with medical school, but he's already credited with saving a life.

According to CBS News, Jones, a student at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, was participating in the standardized patient program. Actors are assigned specific conditions that they pretend to have as medical students try to diagnose their "patients."

Retiree Jim Malloy was told to portray the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The Mayo Clinic describes AAA this way: "The aorta, about the thickness of a garden hose, runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen. Because the aorta is the body's main supplier of blood, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding."

When Jones examined Malloy, he actually found the AAA. At first Malloy wasn't sure if this were a trick patient, of sorts, but thought it was best to say something, just in case.

"He thought I might have been a ringer that was planted in there to test him, and I had no symptoms,” Malloy explained to CBS News. “He thought I was a plant with the real situation."

Malloy didn't know he had the real-life health issue.

Jim and his wife, Louise, who have both participated in UVA's medical school training for years, said in a press release that when Jim was finally checked out by his regular doctor, he learned that he did indeed have an AAA, which was large enough to be of concern.

He underwent stent placement surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center in August.

"Jim’s life was saved by a UVA medical student, no doubt about it," Louise said in the press release.

AAA is most commonly seen in men over the age of 60 who have emphysema, genetic risks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and who were or currently are smokers.

If the aneurysm expands too quickly, it can burst open or leak blood along the blood vessel walls. This could lead to internal bleeding and death.

That's what happened to my father. On a personal side, my dear dad died on October 9, 2002. He spent nine days in a coma following surgery for his AAA. He had abdominal pain for two days before he collapsed and was transported by ambulance to a Twin Cities-area hospital.

If you have horrible pain in your abdomen and are over the age of 60, it's best to check it out. Not everyone has the opportunity to participate in a staged exam with a promising young medical student!

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