I have been off the air at NBC-5 for the past week, not by design but on purpose. I have gotten hundreds of emails from many of you wanting to know where I am and what’s up. As I have told my close NBC-5 family I work with every day, this past week, this has been one of the most emotional and trying weeks of my life, but knowing and feeling the love and prayers from all of you has been a great source of strength for both me and my wife Lyn..
We almost lost Lyn this week. Some times we don’t stop to realize that every day is precious, and that for the Grace of God there go I. Angels have been watching over her since, and those angelic wings first put her mother in the right place at the right time.
Monday afternoon, Lyn collapsed at her children’s store. By a stroke of luck, her mother works for Lyn and noticed her in the restroom chair. She called me and then called 9-1-1. I was on the way to the television station at 2pm when I got the call, and the Colleyville Fire Department Paramedics beat me to the store. They were huddled over Lyn running EKG’s and IV lines when I got there. She was white as a sheet, cold and wet and not able to talk. The paramedics told me she had suffered a heart attack. A heart attack at age 37? She seemed to be in perfect health.
An ambulance rushed her to Harris HEB hospital, where she went through a battery of tests that for the most part did not indicate a heart attack. But, a sharp ER Doctor by the name of Adrian Church noticed a tiny blip of an enzyme in her blood panel called Troponin, one of three enzymes that indicate heart attack. He said he thought it was just a false positive, since everything else was normal, but ordered another blood test just to make sure. That test saved Lyn’s life! The test an hour and a half later showed the troponin level had doubled, and hourly tests thereafter tracked rapidly increasing levels of troponin.
Cardiologist, Dr. Mike Duran, said there was something going on he just could not see on the scans available in the ER. So, he ordered up a cardiac catheterization test early Tuesday morning. He told me the test would take about 30 minutes and didn’t expect to find anything he couldn’t fix with a cardiac stint. A half hour went by, then an hour, and an hour and 15 minutes a nurse came out and said the doctor wanted to talk to me. I expected this talk, but I did not expect what happened next. As we entered two sliding glass doors, the nurse told me “you need to prepare yourself; your wife is in imminent danger of sudden death!” What? She said the catheter test did not go as expected, and Dr. Duran then took the next 20 minutes showing me live action scans that showed the rupture/dissection of the left main branch artery of the heart and the rupture of a second artery on the right side. He said we had about an hour to get into open heart surgery and do a double by-pass to prevent permanent damage to Lyn’s heart muscle. He told me he had already place a balloon pump into Lyn’s heart to assist her blood flow and prevent another imminent heart attack. He said the open heart operation was risky and rare, but the alternative of not operating would be fatal for Lyn within hours.
My world reeled, I felt weak in the knees, Lyn was knocked out in the operating room beyond the glass, I could see her but could not talk to her, and I couldn’t discuss the situation. There was only one decision, go with the odds and place Lyn in the hands of Surgeon David Carter. I quickly called a good friend, Surgeon Dr. Bob Sewell, who told me Dr. Carter was his choice to operate on his dad’s heart. With a pedigree reference like that, I felt Lyn was getting the best shot possible.
From that moment on things became a blur; I have never personally witnessed a medical team move so quickly and so precisely. Dr. Carter’s team at Harris HEB had Lyn prepped and on a heart lung machine within an hour and started the procedure. Karen, Dr. Carter’s surgical nurse, called my cell phone at every break to tell me what was going on. Dr. Carter warned me to prepare for a long afternoon, and he meant it. Lyn’s operation from start to finish took almost 8 hours, but Dr. Carter described it as “text book.” He fixed her heart and she will live to tell the story, what little of it she can remember. Because of the anesthesia medicine she doesn’t remember much, except leaving her store in an ambulance.
Lyn’s recovery sped along for a while, Dr. Carter took her off the respirator 2 hours earlier than anticipated and off the heart assist pump a full 3 hours ahead of schedule. She is breathing and beating on her own and making progress every minute, but she is now feeling pretty sore and the pain ratchets up as she moves around as ordered by the nurses. That said, this is all pretty miraculous, given that what Dr. Carter says happened to Lyn is the exact same thing that happened to actor John Ritter and Tim Russert, a blockage then dissection/rupture of the main stem left artery, an event he called “the widow maker”. Her personal physician, Dr. Rebecca Sharp, says given all of Lyn’s test results in the ER, and her lack of family history of heart problems, she could have been sent home with the diagnosis of indigestion. If that had happened, and almost did, Dr. Sharp says Lyn would most likely have died within 12 hours.
We are now 6 days into this adventure in medicine, and Lyn has just been moved to a Cardiac Step Down room, where she can begin the process of rehabbing and preparing to go home (soon we hope). This will be a long road home however, 6 weeks of healing the sternum in her chest and in her leg that gave up an artery to fix her heart. But, fix is a good word, because Dr. Carter tells us her heart is fixed, and pathology suggests the likelihood of this happening again is extremely remote.
I cannot express my gratitude enough for wonderful staff and doctors at Harris HEB, and especially our young ER doctor Adrian Church who refused to ignore a tiny blip on a blood panel. We have been so blessed by dozens upon dozens of friends who have come to the hospital giving Lyn their love and support. My older children Parker, Kylee and Xander have shared in the shock, sorry and now joy for Lyn. She is improving daily, finally out of the ICU where she can visit with our little girls who miss mommy dearly.
Lyn will now have a battle scar to remind her of this adventure. Strange how it sometimes takes a brush with death to appreciate how precious life really is. This experience has indeed been sobering and gives me a greater appreciation of how blessed we are to see another day. I hope to be back with you again on NBC-5 soon, but for now my mission is to get Lyn back home, safe and sound so we can get mommy well again.
God bless you all.