In April of this year, I experienced a Type A aortic dissection and was taken to University Hospital in Columbia by Flight For Life.
In flight, I felt I was "circling the drain." As the helicopter put down on the pad, I had a strong sense I was not going to make it. Then, an assorted group of University Hospital personnel rushed to off-load my stretcher. Their obvious concern and sense of urgency kindled a flash of hope — even confidence — as I buckled. A nurse gripped my hand — hard. She got in my face, made eye-to-eye contact, I mean pupil-to-pupil, and said something like, "You're going to make it. We're with you!"
I could feel her commitment. She meant what she said. I believed her.
My surgeon was Dr. Ajit Tharakan. Finishing a long surgery other than my own, he commenced mine and was so occupied for approximately thirteen hours. He and his team stayed on my surgery into the next day: S/P Type A aortic dissection with ascending aorta & hemi arch. Now, physicians tell me that what Dr. Tharakan and his team did is an exhausting operation and that the odds are stacked against success; Dr. Tharakan and his team prevailed. And I lived.
Before going under for the operation, I had suggested that an orange soda would be nice after the surgery. My first memory (beyond the ventilator), upon waking, is Dr. Tharakan passing me a glass of orange drink on ice. With help, I managed a small sip.
In the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the A-team took over. After about a week, still in Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, I was trying to recollect if I had ever used the call button. I realized that every time I was conscious there had been a RN present checking my vitals, administering medications, checking my waste, cleaning me, changing IVs or catheters; Every nurse, day after day, night after night, gave me extraordinary care.
Most of these angels are between 21 and 29 years old. I would trust any one of them with my life — I did.
Very much present while I was in the hospital, and after, were Margaret Deaver, CCRN, Dr. Ajit Tharakan and physician assistant Bob Smith.
Margaret and Bob's competency and attention to the situation is dearly appreciated. I and my daughters hold enormous respect and appreciation for the men and women in the Cardiothoracic Surgery Clinic and the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital.
My experience with Dr. Senthilkumar and Allison Kellenberger, RN, of University Hospital Cardiology Outreach, continues in the tradition of hearty professionalism, characteristic of University Hospital.
Kelly J. Coleman lives in Sedalia.