Emergency staff goes the extra mile -- literally
Dale Hoak, a 74-year-old retired William and Mary history professor, remembers only a few parts of the late spring evening that started with him in his kitchen and ended with emergency surgery.
“I felt some constricting in my throat muscles,” Dale says. “I went to put water on my face, and it didn’t help. I had to crawl about 20 feet to my sofa.”
Dale’s wife called for an ambulance, and the couple soon arrived at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. Dale believes he went in and out of consciousness as nurses monitored him and doctors ordered tests.
“I heard Dr. (Paul) Cash say, ‘It’s what I hoped it wasn’t,’” Dale recalls. He had experienced an aortic rupture, with the interior lining of his aorta coming loose, and needed surgery immediately to repair it.
Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance often transports patients such as Dale to another facility under these circumstances. However, on that June evening, fog grounded Nightingale. Dr. Cash and Janet McCoig, an emergency department nurse whose shift was ending, arranged for an ambulance to transport Dale to Sentara Heart Hospital, about an hour away in Norfolk.
“They actually got in the ambulance with me,” says Dale. “That’s not what usually happens. They kept me alive. They wanted to watch my blood pressure and try to keep it as low as possible.”
A few hours later, Dr. Paul Sirak at Sentara Heart Hospital repaired Dale’s aortic tear and inserted a valve to keep the aorta functioning.
“I learned that what happened to me is caused by an aortic aneurysm. Dr. Philpott, who helped me after the surgery, said that on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being lethal, I was a 9.5,” Dale shares. “They didn’t know if I would survive; after nine hours of surgery, I woke up OK.”
Dale stayed in the hospital for 15 days and then headed home, with a promise to monitor his health. The aorta aneurysm he had faced is a condition that can be detected with screenings conducted at the Sentara Aortic Center and then treated.
Dale also attended cardiac rehabilitation at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. About a month later, Dale saw Dr. Cash and Janet in the lobby of Sentara Williamsburg, where he was attending his rehab classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 10 weeks.
“Dr. Cash told me he’s never seen anyone so dire as me,” Dales says. “I thanked them both profusely and asked that they give my thanks to several other Sentara Williamsburg nurses who helped me.”