Healing Herman's Heart and his other parts too...
On Friday, January 6th, 2023, early afternoon, my dad, Herman, texted to let us know he was driving himself to urgent care because he thought he had maybe had a minor heart attack.
A few minutes later he texted he was having worse pains and a few minutes after that he texted he was walking into an emergency room. 15 minutes later he was filling out paperwork, getting poked for bloodwork, and waiting on the doctor with the results of his EKG. Another 15 minutes later he had had a chest x-ray, was hooked up to a heart monitor, and he was still waiting on the doctor and pain meds. He texted us between waves of pain while he laid on a gurney.
About an hour later he got to see an ER doctor who told him he was "not having a heart attack" but they also did not know what the problem was yet. Pain meds were ordered, and received, but not very helpful. Listening to him hurting over the phone, not knowing what to say, not knowing what was next hurt my heart too. We were all scared.
The doctors were confused by some of his presenting symptoms and lack of others, they decided to keep him overnight, do more tests, and planned to bring in a cardiologist.
24 hours later my dad was still in the emergency room in Alberqueue, still "not having a heart attack", and still in an incredible amount of pain off and on from his chest up through his teeth. He had chest scans done, he was on oxygen, and he was poked and prodded by nurses and doctors (and even the billing department came in twice to poke his wallet). They did an echocardiogram and more tests.
By this point, on Saturday afternoon, we had heard it was not a pulmonary embolism; it was also not the flu and not covid. They said he might need surgery. Then we heard maybe he needed a valve replacement, he possibly had a tear in his aorta and some fluid in his lungs. Meanwhile, his family was scrambling to figure out how to get to him before things got worse.
A little later and before he was transferred to the heart hospital he started to get a fever. From dads texts, we knew things were getting serious and moving fast.
After another chest scan with dye and other test results came in, they now knew, dad had an aortic dissection. Blood was backing up into his lungs, his aorta was damaged, and he needed emergency surgery- stat.
He had mentioned earlier, this whole process was, of course, nothing like on tv. And now he texted "full-on tv mode". They couldn’t wait for an ambulance transfer so he was airlifted to the heart hospital and taken directly into the OR.
While they prepped him for surgery, one of the doctors called to explain what was happening and the risks associated with the repairs he needed. The surgery could take 8 hours, she explained they would have to lower his body temperature, put him under heavy sedation, and then put him on bypass, while they worked. There was a very real chance he wouldn’t survive the surgery, he had zero chance to survive without the surgery. He had consented to the surgery and knew the plan, she said he was ready, and that he loved us.
She promised me their team was ready and up for the challenge, and they would give him their best care.
And they did. Herman, was in surgery for over 11 hours. They had to do three grafts across the arch of his aorta as it fell apart, they replaced his aortic valve, and rebuilt the conduit, they took a vein from his right leg to use on his heart for the bypass. It was 8:15am Sunday morning when the doctor called to let me know the surgery had been long and complicated, there was unexpected bleeding and excessive swelling around his heart but he had made it through.
Unfortunately, due to all the swelling, they were not able to close his chest after they had done their repairs. He would need to stay in the ICU, medically paralyzed and in a coma, intubated, until they could take him back into surgery to close his chest.
Thankfully his family started to arrive in New Mexico on Sunday and were able to be with him in the ICU.
On Monday more family gathered at the hospital. The swelling started to go down and the doctors were able to take him back into the OR to close his chest. The second surgery was also successful.
Over the next several days his ICU room stayed busy. They were able to reduce his sedatives and pain meds and his body was able to start waking up. But his lungs weren't doing everything they needed to do so he remained intubated longer than usual.
He also needed a pacemaker. They started with a temporary box pacemaker but after a day maybe, it wasn't functioning correctly so they put a temporary permanent pacemaker on him. The "temp perm" as they called it was connected by wires that went in through his neck.
A week passed and they were finally able to remove his breathing and feeding tubes on Sunday, January 15th. His throat had some trauma from being intubated for so long but we are told that will all heal. It was hard for him to speak at first but by late Monday he could whisper some. And is doing better every day.
On Tuesday that week, they were able to remove the drainage tubes from his stomach and start to get him up and moving around.
On Wednesday, January 25th, they were able to permanently place the pacemaker into his chest and move him out of the ICU. On Thursday night he was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Albuquerque.
I'm (finally) starting this fundraiser to help my dad cover his out-of-pocket medical expenses, prescription co-pays, and his loss of income to ease the financial burden and unnecessary stressors from this experience so that he can heal. After he completes his rehab time and heads home he'll still need additional help and services. This journey is only just beginning for Herman and our family. I'm hoping with this fundraiser we can also reimburse family that has traveled and will travel to be with Herman on his journey.
I'd like to thank all the nurses and doctors at the Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center for their amazing care of dad. They made such a difference in his recovery and were so kind to us always answering our questions and explaining everything. We will always be grateful for their positive attitudes and big hearts.
Thank you for helping heal Herman's heart, aorta, and all his other parts. After a surgery like his, he's going to need physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, speech therapy and cognitive therapies.
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