Help with Leigh’s recovery

As some of you may know, my future brother-in-law, Leigh Sturn, went into cardiac arrest on April 30th. He was driving home from lunch with his fiancée, Becca (my sister), when he started to feel weird. He pulled over and my sister took over driving. Within a couple minutes, he was unresponsive. Becca called 911 and pulled him out of the car to immediately start CPR.

The ambulance came and brought him to Regions ER. He needed CPR and 2 shocks from a defibrillator to get his heart back into a normal rhythm. He was found to have a potassium of 1.7 (which is extremely low and can affect the heart muscle) and the initial heart ultrasound showed a significant decrease in function.

At this time, it is unknown as to why his potassium went so low or why his heart function was so low. He will need more tests to be done in the future to see if there is an underlying condition or if it was caused by the blood pressure medications he was taking.

After he was stabilized in the ER, Leigh was admitted to the ICU where he was sedated and intubated. He was cooled for 24 hours to help preserve brain function.

That first night, his tropinin spiked, which called for him to go to the cardiac cath lab to check the arteries in his heart for blockages. During that procedure, they also checked his heart function again. They were talking about possibly placing a device to help his heart function better and give it time to heal. Thankfully his heart function looked good and he didn’t need that device and the arteries in his heart were completely clear but still he remained sedated and intubated in the ICU for almost a week. He slowly started to wake up and follow commands and was able to get the breathing tube out.

On May 9, Leigh was transferred to the step down unit. On May 10, he underwent surgery for implantation of a subcutaneous defibrillator (in case his heart goes into a bad rhythm again). The day he was supposed to transfer to intensive rehab his breathing became labored. He had a CT of his chest which showed a moderately sized blood clot in his lung, he then had to stay on the step down unit for a few more days to be started on blood thinners to prevent any further clots.

On May 16th, Leigh was finally transferred to an intensive rehab unit to re-learn fine and gross motor skills and how to talk, swallow, do normal activities, and live independently on his own again.

Leigh was extremely lucky to have been with my sister when this happened. If he would have been alone, he would have died. With that being said, Leigh has still suffered a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen. The doctors say it could take up to a year for Leigh to fully recover, but even then, we don’t know when he can work again.

As both Becca and Leigh work for a small private practice as psychologists, they do not have paid time off or short term disability. Therefore, if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. Becca has been unable to return to work because Leigh cannot advocate for himself or make medical decisions. Becca has only recently tried to start seeing clients again while still making time to take care of their dog, household stuff as they just closed on a house in March, plan their October wedding, and be at the hospital as much as possible to help Leigh.

Leigh has made tremendous progress in rehab but still requires ongoing services and support. His memory and communication skills continue to be impaired. He doesn’t remember what happened, why he is in the hospital, and why he can’t go home. His ability to talk has improved, but he mostly whispers and can’t say more then a couple of words at a time.

Becca and Leigh both help others in their profession but have a hard time accepting help from others. Bills are starting to come in from the ambulance ride and the hospital. On top of the hospital bills, Leigh still has loan payments for his undergraduate degree and doctorate degree. They have gone from two incomes to now barely one, as Becca tries to juggle work and be at the hospital as much as possible to be with Leigh and be his advocate. It has been a rough road for both Leigh and Becca and it will continue to be a rough road as Leigh continues to recover and eventually returns home. His recovery will be long and difficult and will require ongoing therapy.

If you feel like you could spare some money to help, anything would be appreciated!! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!

Laura, Becca, Leigh and the Sturn Family

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Laura Jaramillo 
Saint Paul, MN
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