On January 5th, tragedy struck Charles Donley and his family. We are asking you to share his story and join his friends and family to be a part of his miracle.
That Friday, as Charles was in the shower, he suffered a catastrophic type 1 aortic dissection. The symptoms were somewhere between a heart attack and a stroke—blurred vision, slurred speech, throat and abdomen pain, weakness, and impaired motor function. In a moment, an otherwise perfectly healthy man was rushed to the emergency room with his closest family.
Already a miracle that Charles had survived, it took close to 7 hours to discover an aneurysm of the aortic root, tear in the aortic arch, and a dissection that ran the full length of the ascending aorta. In layman's terms, the main artery in Charles’ body was essentially destroyed from top to bottom. Charles was one cough, bend, or bump away from rupturing his aorta, an event that would have led to almost instantaneous death.
He was immediately airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL. A 14-hour heart and lung bypass surgery involved replacing his aortic arch, the entire ascending aorta, and aortic valve. Charles required transfusions because of the massive amount of blood loss. Doctors had to open him up a second time about an hour after that first surgery after another severe bleed began. During that second surgery, Charles’ heart stopped and he needed to be resuscitated.
When the surgeries had finished and doctors had Charles through the most critical time of his emergency, it was discovered that he had suffered 4 strokes which have led to loss of most function on the right side of his body. His ability to speak and swallow are severely affected at this time. We have seen some major improvements—his breathing tube was removed and doctors have even had Charles standing for brief moments—but he is still critical. The doctor’s prognosis for Charles is somewhere between hopeful and good, with the time frames something we are believing for God to miraculously shorten, just as he has carried Charles this far. Projections include admission to a dedicated stroke rehab facility sometime in the middle of next week, if all continues to go well. We know that God has done a mighty work and will continue to do so, but we are also anticipating a very long recovery process.
The fight for his health isn’t the whole picture. There are huge and mounting medical expenses, only partially covered by insurance. As we speak, there are costs beginning to mount, from the expenses incurred by travel for his wife and family to and from the hospital (2 hours from home), to those associated with continuing to support an entire staff and hiring a physical therapist to help maintain the viability of the practice during this difficult season without "The Boss".
Charles is a daddy of one daughter, Caitlin, but a father to many. His life has been saturated with generosity and he lives selflessly giving himself away. Charles is the sole physical therapist in his own private practice, a clinic which has just recently gotten back on its feet after battling for years through economic challenges and industry changes. His absence is certainly felt in every way among his staff and patients at a time where the business will be strongly challenged without him at the helm.
In addition, Charles helps direct a non-profit missions organization he founded with his wife and best friends that supports missionaries serving in nations around the world. He mentors men through his local church, and gives back to his community in almost every way imaginable.
We are asking anyone who can relate to this critical moment in Charles’ life, anyone with a husband, daddy, daughter, or a friend who has made the kind of difference in your life that Charles had made for so many others, to consider helping Charles and his family get back on their feet. Please give whatever you can, and share this story with as many as you can. All of us who know and love Charles will forever be grateful for you being a part of our miracle.
- Njeru Nthigah
- Richard Owen
- Stephanie Bien
- Julie Vavruska
Organizer and beneficiary
John Nikki Gaudiosi-Garrett