Dear friends and family, It has taken me time to compose myself enough to form full sentences and begin to process all that has occurred in less than 48 hours. It is a story I never thought would be us. Never.
On May 10, 2017, our daughter Allison's 11th birthday, Eric was working on his laptop from his home office when he suddenly begin with intense chest pain. The pain quickly moved to his neck and jaw. Eric immediately took action and went to the phone to call 911. If you know my husband, you know it would take ALOT for him to call for rescue. Eric immediately called me and told me he had called for help and felt as though he was having a heart attack. I was at work about 30 minutes away and all I could do is grab my purse and start running. I called on a close neighbor friend of ours to run down to the house to sit with him until rescue arrived. On site, Eric's EKG was ok and vitals were good but it was strongly encouraged for him to go to the hospital. I made it to him and he asked I drive him to the hospital (um, yes we will be talking about this when he gets better). One of our many angels, a neighbor friend and doctor, insisted on following us there. Once we arrived to the RD, we experienced a relatively slow triage process but were still hopeful all was going to check out fine. I knew Eric was NOT right when he told me he needed a wheel chair! Eric continued to have pain and discomfort in the middle of his chest as we were moved to a room in the ED. All tests up to this point were ruling out possible heart attack, but again why the lingering chest pain? Eric and I spent the next 4.5 hours talking, scrolling through Facebook, watched the tv, chatted about getting home soon for Allison's birthday and how the girls must be having fun since they were on an unprompted play date with their best buddies. Really, at that point, we thought he might be admitted for cardiac observation. Sort of by surprise he was taken back for a CT and was wheeled back in with his eyes as big as saucers. I knew then, something was wrong. The tech of course could not tell Eric but he knew something was wrong by the questions he was being asked. The Doctor arrived, not realizing the CT had been completed, and quiet frankly she was going to just admit him for observation until Eric interrupted and said the CT was done already. Before we knew it she was being paged STAT and within minutes she and a crew came in. "My Salter.....you have a dissection and we are going to have to life flight you NOW and to a special team!" Honestly, my world stood still......................................................................................................I crumbled to my knees, forgetting I had to be strong for him. I finally snapped into it and started hearing what she was saying. "Mr. Salter, no wonder you are hurting here. You have an ascending dissection in your aortic valve and we need to do open heart surgery immediately! Now I need you to listen...." I knew enough from my days as a Cardiovascular rep to be dangerous but I also knew what this could mean. Eric looked at me as helpless as could be and begged me to tell him the truth; the realty. One of his friends quickly arrived and stood by our side in preparation to drive me to the hospital. Eric and I had about 10 minutes to talk. We had to have the talk I never wanted to have at 37 and 42 years old. I had to focus, listen and be calm for him. We immediately prayer and agreed this- this situation was going to be the truest test of our faith. As everyone was racing around us, we were together and so thankful for that time. I had to make a few hard phone calls as they were preparing him and I just remember standing in those cold and sterile pale wall hallways thinking- this is not us. This is really not him. No! It is Allison birthday, NO! We are too young, NO! We have children, NO! I don't want to do this alone, NO!!!!! There was a tremendous amount of back and forth on where he would be taken, based on skill and availability. And finally Baptist Downtown Jacksonville responded they would take him. I walked him down the hall to the helicopter as I was stopped by the ED Director. He heard nothing he was saying- just saw his lips moving. I interrupted him and said, "just tell me- will he make it! I need to know!" His answer, "Mrs. Salter, we are a faith based hospital." Right.... faith....what am I thinking....we are not alone but his answer told me everything! Faith in the healing power of our Heavenly Father was the answer to his survival. I finally started hearing him as he handed me Eric's paperwork, "now, Mrs. Salter, you are going to go to the Heart Hospital 4th floor and Dr Still will be meeting Eric there ahead of you." Dr. Still...immediately a rush went over me for us both- Be STILL and know that I am God! About the time I had fallen to my knees in the hall from the shock the double doors open and 4 of our dearest friends walked in with our girls. I had to pull it together and quick. The moment, as a Mommy, I never wanted to experience...the ED Director took us to the family prayer room and met with us girls. It felt so void not having Eric there. What was I going to do? Sweet Ramsey was her usually inquisitive self and asked the innocent questions related to scrapes on the knee that you would expect from a 5 year old and my birthday girl, Allison, was pulling her Daddy's brave spirit out of her but was quickly trying to piece it all together behind her tears. It made no sense. None. How could my 42 year old, healthy, active, runner, social husband be this close. How in the world? I believe Eric had already landed before we left the hospital. Allison jumped in the back seat with me and we held each other as my amazing friend, Heidi, drove us- doing everything in her power to distract Allison. I was worthless. We arrived to the heart hospital only to....wait. Friends begin to come in one by one and literally hold Allison and me up. I completely lost my composure. They were our rocks and prayed constantly as we waited. My dear friend Amanda sent her husband ahead of her to comfort me, Heidi kept Allison calm and distracted, our medical genius friend sat by my side and orchestrated things I will never know and others pilled around us.
Finally, we realized the length of the surgery and decided we needed to give Allison a proper end to her birthday. Eric's dear friends Dennis and Jay arrived with their daughters to love on Allison- the best medicine for her. They took Allison under their wing and asked her to chose a (very) late night birthday dinner! They threw themselves into our shoes and did nothing but love all over her. All of her other buddies met her for a late night sleep over just to be with her- they brought joy and that brought me comfort. Meanwhile, I received text messages of bubble baths and sweet dreams from Mary and Jay who were loving on Ramsey.
Still there was Eric...what was I going to hear? Finally, the OR door opened and a sweet nurse name Monique walked towards Amanda, Dana (my rocks) and me. She sat across from me and explained Eric's current condition. He was stable and in good hands. Bypass had started immediately and she would be back to report in a few hours. So...we sat...we walked...we cried..they rubbed my back...they made me a place to rest with their blanket and jackets...insisted I eat food they brought for me. Our angels- there were so many. We were both in good hands but most importantly Eric was in God's hands as the prayers pumped into that OR. (and additional story here I will post separately). Faith- Be STILL and know that I am God. We both left each other knowing it was only in Him we could trust.
Dr. Still opened the door and I felt a rush of emotion- do I stand? Do I sit? I just grabbed Amanda's hand.... "Well, Eric is stable! We were ready for him! What happened is...." As stumped as we, he agreed it was a mystery in someone this young, a case like this. Then how do you explain his survival to this point? I say only one way- A MIRACLE! An absolute MIRACLE! Faith...full and complete FAITH! PRAYER...relentless PRAYER. God called to Eric in the 11:00 hour on May 10, 2017- "You are my son and I intend to use you...I am not done with you yet!"