Dallas, Texas resident Terry Harris flew to Atlanta one morning for an overnight business trip.
“I woke up, had some stomach pain, but didn’t think much of it,” Terry says. “So I got dressed and caught a flight to Atlanta.”
Terry says he was sitting in his meeting in Atlanta when he started to feel a little light-headed and queasy. So he went to the restroom and later felt like he was about to “white out or black out.”
“I told my boss’s secretary I’m not feeling well, I need to sit in this office,” he remembers. “And one of my colleagues came out and took one look at me and said, ‘Call 911 right now.’”
Terry ended up in the hospital for over two months.
Morris Brown, M.D., surgeon at Piedmont Heart Institute, says Terry was suffering from gangrenous appendix and developed a systemic inflammatory response syndrome that resulted in being unable to oxygenate him. Terry was put on an ECMO, or extra corporeal membrane oxygenation, machine for 25 days. An ECMO is essentially a heart-lung machine that does the work of both the heart and the lungs when they are not able to function on their own. It’s similar to the heart-lung machine used in open-heart surgery.
“[His body] acted like a burn patient – you just can’t keep blood in the blood stream,” Dr. Morris says. “So he got over 30 liters of fluid within the first 24 hours to maintain his circulating blood volume which was all leaking out of his blood vessels because they lost their ability to hold fluid.”
“The last thing I remember,” Terry says, “is they told me they were going to put me in a medically induced coma, and there was a high probability I would never wake up again, and we’ll give you a few minutes to say goodbye to your wife.”
Patricia Hubbard, critical care physician assistant at Piedmont, says Terry’s family was phenomenal at the bedside from day one. “They brought in pictures of Terry, his wife and their little girl,” she says. “We put them up around his bed, and that gave us motivation. It was a struggle for a while, but we just kept at it.”
Terry and his wife are thankful for everyone who had a part in his recovery.
“Their efforts – their nonstop will to keep me alive and to be proactive and to be one step ahead of all the problems and issues I had the whole time – it wasn’t easy. They were amazing.”
After being at Piedmont for over two months, Terry is fully recovered and back in Dallas with his wife and baby girl. They are expecting another baby in July.