Tails from ICU, Part 1

On April 25th 2018 my life changed forever.

It started out like most mornings, little did I know I was about to be engaged in a battle for my life.

I woke at 4:30 am and  prepped for the day ahead.  I had  6:30, and 9:15 am fitness classes to coach, and then returned home to remove the lids for the septic tank so it could be pumped out. As I waited for the honey wagon I decided to go in and do some business of my own.  All seemed normal until it was time to stand up. I felt the most excruciating pain between my shoulder blades. Nothing like I had ever felt before it felt like I was stabbed in the back. At first I thought, I was having a heart attack? I checked my pulse and felt there is no way it could be. I then thought it may be a rib has displaced, I tried to stretch it out but nothing would relieve the pain. I couldn’t breathe and thought this is serious! This all took about three minutes.

I called 911, called my wife Amy and waited for the Cavalry. My wife called a neighbor just in case I needed some back up and she kept me talking. I believe staying ambulatory and distracted was the first step in saving my life. I walked around the yard in the rain until the Ambulance arrived. They asked “where is the patient” and I said “I’m right here” I stepped in to the ambulance they took my vitals and nothing seemed out of line. My blood pressure was borderline and we all thought it must be a rib. We saunter off to emergency at Ross Memorial in Lindsay. There seemed to be no sense of urgency. My wife Amy even beat us to the hospital and she came from Port Perry. I think she was speeding. Then my son walks in.  I’m thinking they wasted a trip, that they will just send me home. They slid me into the hall and I waited for the doctor to come and check me out. I had to stand as I couldn’t lay on my back. The pain was a 15 out of 10 and believe me I have a high tolerance for pain.

The ER Doctor comes to check me out, feels my back, takes my vitals and says “It could very well be a rib but I’m going to send you for a CT just to make sure”. I will soon find out I owe Dr Lerm my life. Off I go, my first CT scan, I was stoked! Well maybe not. The CT was as unpleasant as I thought it would be. Now, I’m just pleased they had one. I go back to the hall to wait. The wheels don’t even stop on the gurney and all hell breaks loose. I’m rushed into triage where another Doctor, the amazing Dr. Robinson breaks the news to me that Dr. Lerm suspected I may have had an Aortic Dissection, and it was confirmed with the CT. I’m told that they have an emergency call out to all the hospitals in Ontario that can perform vascular surgery  and Orange has been called to transport me when they get confirmation. The response was quick, Orange has been dispatched and I will fly to Toronto General Hospital.

They begin to prep me for surgery before I even leave Ross Memorial, now the gravity of the situation sinks in.  I say to Ames “I don’t want to die we have too much to live for”. Amy tears up, my son tears up, and I’m just refusing to accept what could be the inevitable. One percent of Aortic Dissection patients live past the first 24 hours. Everyone was hustling, there was a quiet panic. Catheter inserted  (that was fun), arterial line x 5 unsuccessful attempts  (even more fun), blood pressure monitor, IV’s etc.  I was wired up like the 6 million dollar man. I must be crazy, or the pain meds had kicked in, because I was quite jazzed about the Helo ride to Toronto General. Then I’m told the weather was too bad to fly. Enter the Orange Ambulance guys! These guys I have to say knew their shit. They checked all the equipment hooked me up, loaded me up, and off we go. What I didn’t know, and Amy told me later, was that she said to them “please get him there safely”,  and one Medic pointed to a giant box of blood and said, “no problem we’ll make it.” Sirens blaring, full throttle down the shoulder of the 115, 401 and the DVP.  These guys were awesome. Less than 30 minutes later they were pulling into Toronto General.

Watch for Part Two. Tails from ICU