As many of you know, John has been in the hospital since early last week. (That's the week of August 1 for you folks from THE FUTURE. ) We're still not completely sure how he got there, but here is what we do know... About a month ago, John got what seemed like a pretty ordinary cold. He was getting better after a first trip to the doctor, but was still having some trouble breathing and was quite tired. He went back to the doctor around the middle of July. They ran some tests, but thought that he will still just fighting a sinus infection. They gave him a breathing treatment and a few other things to fight the infection. He seemed to be getting better, but he was still short of breath.
This past Monday, John woke up feeling pretty lousy. He decided to go the doctor and when he got there his heart rate was irregular. They didn't think it was a big deal, but they sent him the ER in an ambulance. John, of course, let me know that he was excited to get to ride in an ambulance. When he got the ER, he called his father and me to let us know that he was there and that they had detected an a-fib. Because the a-fib was pretty serious and his heart was working like crazy, they shocked it back to a steady rhythm. After the shock, it was becoming clear that something was very wrong. His heart wasn't doing what it needed to be doing and his blood pressure was dropping. They worked on him and then sent him to the cath lab where they worked on him more and then sent him to the ICU where they worked on him some more. Monday night was extremely touch and go. His vitals were all over the place, he was bleeding a lot and his organs were suffering. And his heart just wasn't doing what it needs to do.
The team at Lutheran General wanted to get him to where he was stable enough that they could transfer him to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. Christ Hospital has an amazing cardio program and some top notch surgeons... so this made sense. The hope was that once he got to Christ that they could install a VAD to help take some stress off his heart so it could repair. By mid-morning on Tuesday, John was stable enough to be moved. He was transported in a medical emergency helicopter. Pretty exciting stuff... When he got to Christ the surgery team evaluated him. John was still in too critical condition for them to perform the surgery. The cardio team determined that there was too much risk. So they basically did what they could to stop the bleeding and put in a balloon pump hoping that with this support his heart and other organs would start doing their thing. He was more stable after this...
However, on Wednesday morning we met with the cardio and surgery team again and they let us know that the current care plan was not sustainable and that there was already a ton of damage and that the meds he was on to keep him going were probably doing more harm than good. Time to make another decision... team Amundsen and I were presented with a few next step options. We decided to go with the next step to support his heart... ECMO. The surgery team took him into surgery and they opened his chest and attached this crazy ECMO gizmo to his heart. He was in and out of surgery and the OR over the next 24 hours.
Finally by Thursday afternoon, John was all hooked up and the ECMO was doing the hard work. Since then there have been small steps. He is still very sick and the situation is critical. The drop in blood pressure has led to some organ issues. Right now John's kidneys, liver, heart and lungs are all pretty severely compromised. He has been in an induced coma. However, today they started taking him off the sedatives so they can try to remove the breathing tube. There have been some improvements in levels that indicate that we are moving in the right direction. But the road is still long and uncertain.... I know that many want to know what caused this. Possibly some kind of infection? We may never know though they are running all the tests to try to figure it out so they can treat whatever it is.
John has a few things going for him. First... he's young. (We hear that a lot around here...) Second, he was a pretty healthy guy when this happened. And lastly, he has all the love and support of his amazing family and what I'm quite sure is the largest network of coworkers, friends and coworker friends who are all on his side. There are about a million medical things happening here that I can't even begin to explain... but as our beloved John Amundsen would say. It's a whatchamacalit.