Keith Quinlan came close to dying. The Trenton, New Jersey firefighter and his wife, Cori, were on day two of an Outer Banks vacation when he suddenly became ill. The Outer Banks Hospital quickly transferred him by ambulance to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he wound up on life support in the General Intensive Care Unit (GICU).
What started as a suspected case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever became something much more deadly. Infectious disease doctors with Eastern Virginia Medical School diagnosed Keith’s rapidly deteriorating condition as Churg-Strauss Syndrome, a rare systemic autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of small- to medium-sized blood vessels, which can starve organs and extremities of blood.
The Miracle Man
Keith’s toes turned black. The skin on his feet ulcerated. His immune system was killing him. Doctors tried multiple antibiotics and a last-ditch blast infusion of steroids as Keith hovered near death. The combination worked. He began to slowly recover, earning him the nickname “Miracle Man.”
By then, Sentara GICU nurse Stephanie Marable had notified Norfolk Fire and Rescue that one of their brothers was in peril. They turned out in force to support Keith and Cori, to supply meals to their family, wash their clothes and provide comfort. Teams of fellow firefighters from New Jersey traveled to Norfolk to be at his bedside.
Unable to walk, Keith flew home on an air ambulance.
Fifteen months later, Keith and Cori walked into Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to thank the clinical team.
“This hospital is amazing,” Keith said of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. “The doctors, the nurses, and the guy who came in to clean the room every day were just fantastic.”
The Quinlans were in town to attend Stephanie’s Outer Banks wedding to a Norfolk firefighter.
“I was one of his nurses while he was on life support,” Stephanie says. “We all got close to his family during that time and Norfolk Fire and Rescue really adopted them 100 percent. They’re a big part of our family now.”
“The greatest gift is waking up every morning and seeing Cori,” says Keith, with a tear rolling down his cheek. “Maybe this is karma. I’ve saved about a dozen lives in 30 years, pulling people out of fires. Maybe it’s coming back to me.”