Occasionally, Air Care will transport a patient that says, “I flew with you a few years ago.” Recently, Air Care flew James Terry, a patient we had previously transported for trauma in 2006. We discovered this much later, however. At the time, James was unresponsive and gravely ill with septic shock …
James Terry’s wife could not wake him up. The 60-year-old had fallen asleep in his chair the night before, as he often did, but by noon had still not awakened. She called an ambulance immediately. James had been to a doctor a few times recently for dehydration and obscure symptoms, but no one could figure him out.
Upon arrival at Three Rivers Health Emergency Department, Dr. Brian Bowditch, D.O., and Nurse Selenia Chartrand found James to be profoundly sick with pneumonia. They intubated him and placed him on a ventilator. The infection had rapidly progressed and put his body into septic shock.
When the West Michigan Air Care crew arrived at his bedside in Three Rivers, James’ blood pressure was 53/44 despite fluid boluses. The Air Care medical crew started a third IV to accommodate all the fluids and medications he needed immediately. They continued fluid boluses and started a vasopressor, Norepinephrine, to improve James’ blood pressure. They also began antibiotics to fight the lung infection that was taking over his body.
Pneumonia patients tend to have low oxygen saturations even after intubation due to poor gas exchange deep in the alveoli. James’ oxygen saturations were low at 86%. The medical crew placed James on their Revel transport ventilator and adjusted his therapy to improve his oxygenation as they flew him to Kalamazoo.
By the time the James arrived at his destination in the Bronson Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) his oxygen saturations had improved to 91% and his systolic blood pressure was back in the normal range, above 90 mm Hg.
James remained critically ill for several days in the MICU. Gradually he overcame his infection, but it was a close call. He was even on dialysis for kidney failure for a short time, he says, but thankfully, his kidney function has significantly improved. Amazed at his miraculous turnaround, James’ providers at Bronson delighted in talking to him as he neared discharge from the hospital.
“They would come back and say, ‘Remember me? I took care of you when you were really sick.’ And, of course, I just couldn’t remember,” says James.
He does, however, remember receiving great care at Bronson once he was awake.
“They did a fantastic job over there. I was treated with the utmost respect. I was really happy with the nursing care on every unit. They made my stay as enjoyable as it could have been,” he says.
Before he left the hospital, James was visited by one of his Air Care flight nurses, Jan Eichel. She discovered this was not the first time James had flown with Air Care.
In May 2006, James had a farming accident in which his leg was injured in a rototiller. He freed himself and placed a tourniquet before being flown to Kalamazoo. Eight surgeries ultimately resulted in a below-knee amputation, which James persistently adapted to. There have been challenges, but thanks to a prosthetic limb, it has not slowed him down much in the years since.
After returning home from his recent hospitalization, James has kept moving forward and is up doing chores again. He sets small goals for himself and is sleeping well which is enabling him to gradually recover his strength.
“I’m still pretty weak and get tired easily,” he says, but he works with it.
James cuts wood for short periods and takes his time cleaning up his pole barn, breaking chores into manageable steps as his energy allows. His home was already handicap-accessible, a great convenience as he recovers his stamina.
James and his wife, Nancy, have been visited by a lot of family and most of their grandkids since James’ return home. They are hoping to take a trip out west this spring with James’ mother in her 40-ft motor home. Setting goals and plans is just part of James’ attitude – to adapt and go on as before. His other travel plans? To become a “snow bird” and head south each winter!