Dave’s Monday morning started out the same as any other. As a pilot for United Airlines, he had just completed a flight from Raleigh to Denver and had driven home to rest. He was looking forward to catching up on sleep when he felt a sharp pain in his chest.
“It was like suddenly being hit with something,” Dave recalls.
He knew what was happening to him was serious, so he called his son, who happened to be on break that week from Colorado School of Mines, to take him to the closest ER at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital. During the brief drive, Dave felt his condition rapidly deteriorating. He started losing feeling in his legs, he experienced intense back pain, and by the time they pulled up to the ER, he couldn’t move his lower body.
The ER physician took one look at him and immediately called Flight for Life. She suspected there was an issue with Dave’s aorta, so while the helicopter was on the way, she also ordered a CAT scan. Shortly afterward, the helicopter arrived and Dave, along with the results of his CAT scan, were rushed to the cardiac surgeons at Porter Adventist Hospital.
During the brief ride, Dave remembers feeling his organs squeeze together. He was a medivac pilot for the army early in his career, so he knew these symptoms indicated that his body was draining blood from essential organs to keep his heart working. His caregivers at Porter also knew how urgent his case was, and, since they had already received the results of the CAT scan, knew exactly where to start operating.
“When we arrived at Porter, the team was waiting outside to rush me into surgery,” Dave said. “It was probably only about an hour from the time I arrived in the ER to the time I was in surgery.”
The fast response saved his life.
The next couple of weeks were a blur for Dave as he focused on his slow recovery. What he does remember is how lucky he felt to be alive – only two to four percent of people survive an aortic dissection – and how grateful he was for the exceptional, quick-thinking doctors he had by his side.
“I’m happy that it worked out for me,” Dave said. “Without the care at Centura, the story would’ve been completely different.”
In fact, once he recovered, he decided to make a donation to the Centura hospitals that cared for him, as a way to express his thanks. He also wrote heartfelt notes to each of the physicians that handled his case, like Kristen Hertzler, the ER physician who treated Dave at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and Jess Joymon, the thoracic surgeon at Porter Adventist Hospital.
“It’s not every day you get to hear about how you changed someone’s life for the better,” Kristen said. “I am beyond humbled!”
Dave’s story highlights the strengths of a system that works together to save lives. Gifted physicians and valuable resources at our Centura hospitals provided Dave with a new birthday and a second chance at life – a gift he’s incredibly grateful for.