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The Miracle of a Heartbeat

Lakeland's Fast-Acting Staff Saves a Life

susan and james thompsonWhen Susan Thompson arrived at her St. Joseph home after work last November, she knew something wasn’t right. Her husband, James, had stayed home from his job and wasn’t feeling well. Now, James was feeling worse and knew it was time to see a doctor. As Susan was getting ready to take him to the walk-in clinic, she heard a loud noise in the other room. Without warning, James had passed out.

Worried, Susan called an ambulance. Despite his vitals being normal, they decided to be safe and go to Lakeland Medical Center, St. Joseph. James had a normal EKG in the Emergency Department, and emergency medicine physician Christopher Trigger, MD, ordered a CT scan for James’ chest.

When radiologist Polya Baghelai, MD, read the test, she knew she had to act fast. James had an aortic dissection, a very serious condition that involves a tear in the wall of the main blood vessel to the heart. Taking quick action, Dr. Baghelai called her husband, Kourosh Baghelai, MD, Medical Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery Services at Lakeland, who was on call that night. James would have to undergo immediate, eight-hour long emergency surgery to repair his aorta. While James was in surgery, Susan and their family waited.

“It was such a hard time for us while we waited,” said Susan. “But everyone was so kind and compassionate. Every staff member we saw kept asking us what they could do, even if they weren’t working with James. They even brought us warm blankets. They truly treated us like family.”

James spent several more days recovering before he was discharged. With everything that had happened and with a long list of new medications, Susan and James were concerned about being able to remember their instructions.

Troy Teagardin, PA gave us his personal phone number to call if we had questions,” said Susan. “And we did, many times.”

After discharge, James went through a couple months of cardiac rehabilitation to get him back to full strength.

“I thought at first that it wouldn’t do anything,” said James. “But after the first session, even I was surprised with what a huge difference it made.”

Now, James is back to work as an electrician, and enjoying time spent with Susan.

“We are so grateful to Lakeland for saving him,” said Susan. “The teamwork was there. From the moment we entered the Emergency Department, everyone treated us like we were family.”

“It’s a miracle,” said Susan. “They saved my husband’s life.”

See a Video of Susan
and James' Story

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