Since my last post, I feel like the days have blurred together. Since it was a crazy time, the realization has only just sunk in that I have done another thing on my bucket list. I would rather have crossed it off under different circumstances, but since there’s nothing that I can change….here goes.
It started after the wine tasting. I came home late and my dad was still up watching TV. He said that–despite being extremely tired–he couldn’t sleep because his neck was in so much pain. He was worried that issues were resurfacing from the surgery he had 11 years ago (when I was 12, my dad had a “slipped disk” in his neck. He underwent a risky surgery that removed the disk in his neck and replaced it with a cadaver bone graft and titanium plate fixation. All went well with the surgery, but the surgeon warned that there was a risk of another disk “slipping”). Over the past few months, he mentioned the extreme fatigue and neck pain, but everyone was convinced that it was due to overwork, stress, and possibly another slipping disk.
Fast forward to Sunday morning. I was up making coffee when my dad came downstairs wearing the neck brace we had kept from his prior surgery. The night before was terrible for him, with incredible neck pain (to the point of nausea). He insisted that nothing was wrong and went to work.
While at work–my dad is an attending physician at Kishwaukee Community Hospital emergency room–the pain and fatigue got worse. Finally, one of the EMTs insisted that they run an ECG just in case. My dad brushed him off at first…and then agreed. He laid down in a free bed, they hooked him up, and then he and the tech looked at his results.
My dad called his own code STEMI, and his co-workers rushed to the cath lab, a hi-tech room capable of anything from interventional cardiac procedures to open heart surgery. In the cath lab, they found that one of his arteries was 100% blocked, preventing blood flow to his heart. The whole team acted fast. They put a stent in the problem artery to keep it open for blood flow to the heart muscle. Within 58 minutes, blood flow was re-established. The national average is ~90 minutes. Incredible.
Even though the team acted quickly, his recovery will not be easy. Not only will his physical capabilities change completely, but also he will have to make some pretty drastic lifestyle changes to reduce stress, cholesterol, and high-intensity activities. It will be a journey, but my family is not one to shy away from a challenge :D.
Anyways, in the midst of the mayhem of last week, I was reflecting on just how FORTUNATE it was that he was at work when it happened & how happy I am that he was at Kishwaukee with a skilled team that acted quickly. So I wrote a letter to the hospital, scanned it and sent it to the Chief Medical Officer. I asked him to distribute it to all hospital department heads and post it in the ER & ICU. This is what I wrote:
We may have been introduced over the course of the last few days or I may have heard of your actions indirectly; in any case, I wanted to personally express my gratitude for the phenomenal response to my dad’s MI.
I am convinced that the quick mobilization is what saved him from a more disastrous outcome, but it is the the other–more personal–touches that helped to put my family at ease.
To have coworkers that know you well enough to see when you are “off” and insist on an ECG..that says something.
To have an endless stream of Kish staff members that brought my dad good company, well wishes, a warm conversation…that says something.
To have partners that can seamlessly pick up on your duties without resentment…that says something.
To have Kishwaukee docs calling the house to check up on not only my dad, but also his family…that says something.
It all says something, and that something is clear: Kishwaukee made all the difference. A state-of-the-art facility, coupled with a staff that has heart (no pun intended) is the reason why my dad is here right now, lovin’ on some flax seed meal and Plavix.
My warmest regards,
I never thought that the service about which I would be writing a letter would be the medical response to my dad’s heart attack. Even so, I think it was the perfect service to thank. Because without it, he wouldn’t be here.