Sunday, May 1, 2011

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

When we went to bed on Friday night, we never dreamed we'd spend most of Saturday at the hospital.

It began with a phone call around 7:45 Saturday morning.  My step-mom, Kathy, was beside herself because an ambulance had taken my 76-year-old dad, Myron, to the hospital.  He'd fallen in the bathroom twice, hitting his head hard front and back, and then had a seizure.  Kathy had called 9-1-1 (overruling his protestations that he was fine), and now he'd been whisked away, but she was unable to follow.  She'd had cataract surgery the previous day and wasn't able to drive yet.

Ed reassured her that we'd be there to pick her up in 15 minutes, and soon we were on our way to our local small-town hospital, where Dad awaited us in his emergency room cubicle. 

The flight nurses strap Dad onto the gurney.
After a chest x-ray, an EKG, a CT scan, and an MRI, the doctors were still puzzled as to what had made Dad pass out.  Everything appeared to be fine, including his blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart.  Dad remembered feeling weak and "light" all over just before he fell, but nothing after that.  Next thing he knew, he was waking up with a swollen, split lip and a very worried wife.

The doctors decided to keep him overnight for observation, so he was admitted and hooked up to all the heart monitoring equipment in his new room.  It's a good thing they did. 

Dad's lunch was brought in around 12:15, so Ed and I drove Kathy home to put in her eyedrops and have some lunch while we went on home to eat.  My sister-in-law Dana stayed behind with Dad.  We'd barely finished our lunch at home when Dana called to let us know Dad had suffered another seizure not long after we left.
Dad mugs with the flight nurses and the floor nurse who dubbed him "Troublemaker."

When we returned, we found a "crash cart" stationed at the foot of Dad's bed.  His nurse popped into the room every few minutes.  She had a needle in her breast pocket, ready to plunge into his heart should it stop beating.  Fortunately, since Dad was already hooked up, this second event had been caught by the monitors.  His heart had stopped for 15 seconds, he'd stopped breathing, and he'd had another seizure before his heart started back up on its own.  Now it became obvious what had made him black out in the bathroom.

Since a 3-second delay in heartbeat is enought to require a pacemaker, it was quite clear what Dad needed next.  However, the cardiologist who did pacemaker surgeries only traveled to our mountain on Mondays and Tuesdays, and doctors were uncertain that Dad's heart could hold on that long.  Even while we were waiting for the flight arrangements to be made, Dad's heart rate dropped as low as 29 beats per minute a few times.  They made the decision to fly him to his cardiologist's location in Gilbert (in the Phoenix metro area).
Dad gets wheeled through the hospital corridors...

The flight was arranged within an hour, and we were able to join Dad as he was wheeled out to the 'copter for his 55-minute flight to a Gilbert Hospital.  Dad proudly told the flight nurses about his grandson (my nephew Jeremy) who flies life-flight helicopters for a different hospital in Gilbert.  There was a lot of teasing going on when the flight nurses discovered that Jeremy works for a rival company.
...and across the parking lot to the landing pad.

When I joked that the flight staff needed to keep Dad's heart rate up during the flight, they quickly told him, "Did we tell you this is the pilot's first flight?  And she's even younger than your grandson!  By the way, the helicopter was just overhauled and this will be a test flight to see if everything is working right."  They were great!
Saying our good-byes before Dad was loaded.  The tiny girl at the left was the pilot.
She really was 4 years younger than Jeremy!

Dad gets squeezed into the tiny cockpit space, but he has a front row seat!

Dad and the pilot, ready to fly into the wild blue yonder!

Dad's last words to his wife, Kathy, were, "Put on your sunglasses."
It was too bright outside for her sensitive, post-surgery vision.

The nurses saddle up and then...

...we have lift-off!

I would have been blown off my feet by the powerful rotors
if Ed hadn't been behind me, holding me up. 

Away he goes, toward the southwest.

Dad was settled into his new room in Gilbert around 4:00 yesterday.  More tests were run.  He had a good night, and today his new pacemaker was installed.  Following his surgery he was surrounded by family all afternoon and is now doing great.  He should be back here at home by tomorrow night.

It's a great ending to what began as a frightening puzzle.  Soon after Dad arrived at the hopsital, Kathy called their bishop, who came to give Dad a priesthood blessing with Ed's help.  In the blessing, Dad was blessed that the doctors would figure out the problem and know how to treat him.  That promise was fulfilled.

If the second event hadn't occurred while Dad was hooked up to the heart monitors, he probably would have been sent home without a pacemaker.  The next time his heart suddenly stopped, he might not have been so lucky.  How grateful we are for a merciful Heavenly Father!


ashley b said...

i'm glad that they were able to figure it out! i wish i could be there to visit him. thanks for blogging it for us out of towners. :) love you!

Grandma Honey said...

Oh Mary. How grateful you must feel today for Priesthood blessings.

And how sweet your Dad is to be worried about his wife's eyes as he was fighting for his own life.