It was early October, 2012, just three days after undergoing colon surgery and a partial removal of his lung for cancer. Scott Mikkelsen was recovering at home and soon began to complain to his wife that he was having difficulty breathing. “He was really struggling,” said Diana, his wife, and she knew she had to get her husband to the Emergency Department, fast. Scott was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and within a few hours the doctor approached Diana to deliver some very grave news; Scott was critically ill and close to death. “I really thought I was going to lose him. I thought this was it,” Diana said quietly.
But the Miracle Man, as he was later dubbed, had other plans.
“I had several close calls with death, but I wanted to live.”Scott said. Scott eventually overcame each obstacle one by one, but by late October, he was still unable to breathe on his own. So on November 2nd he was transferred to Vibra Specialty Hospital with a tracheostomy (a small tube through the trachea, or “windpipe”) that was attached to a ventilator and a feeding tube in his stomach for nourishment.
Led by a multidisciplinary team, Vibra’s primary goal for Scott was liberation from mechanical ventilation. While their efforts were compromised by Scott’s pneumonia and underlying emphysema, the treatment plan was comprehensive. His nurses, pulmonologists and respiratory therapists worked tirelessly to help Scott move step by step through the ventilator liberation protocol. At the same time, physical therapists and occupational therapists worked with him daily, increasing his activity to help him regain his strength and working with him on self-care tasks. Speech therapists worked on improving his ability to speak and swallow, while dieticians provided the nourishment necessary to help him regain some of the 60 pounds he’d lost. Diana was at his bedside every day, providing a steady stream of love, support and encouragement.
The comprehensive approach and hard work paid off; several weeks after he arrived at Vibra, Scott graduated from the ventilator. Having been unable to speak with the tracheostomy in place, Scott turned to his wife on the day it was removed and uttered his first words in nearly two months: “I love you, Diana.”
Today, Scott is home with Diana, where together they enjoy working in the garden, trying new recipes, and taking unhurried car rides through neighboring towns, simply enjoying the scenery and “trying to find the Oregon sun,” as they say together.
Thanks to his ability to move along the continuum of care, Scott, the Miracle Man, continues to progress every day.
Name: Carolyn Goodwin
Admitting Diagnosis: Respiratory Failure
Admission Date: 10/14/13
Discharge Location: Private Residence
Carolyn and Edmund Goodwin, both in their late 70’s, were, according to Edmund, “living a simple life” with a few age-related health problems. Edmund writes, “We try to maintain our status—shopping for groceries every couple of weeks, eating right, exercising, and annual doctor visits.” Carolyn has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Edmund has a bad back. As Edmund puts it, “we manage.”
But then, suddenly, Edmund said, “the unthinkable happened and I rushed Carolyn to the ER.”
Somehow Carolyn and Edmund had contracted the deadly bacteria e. coli-O-157. Edmund suffered milder symptoms, but Carolyn became perilously ill.
In the days that followed, Carolyn continued to face one challenge after another. There were many set-backs. Initially the hospital staff attempted to remove Carolyn’s breathing tube, but her throat swelled up and she couldn’t breathe. The next day, her white blood cell count was up, indicating some kind of infection. The next night Carolyn developed a fever.
It was then discovered that Carolyn had acquired pneumonia from bacterial pneumonia from MRSA. Carolyn’s doctors discussed performing a tracheotomy - an opening surgically created through the neck into the trachea (windpipe) to allow direct access to the breathing tube.
Carolyn’s tracheotomy was successful and shortly after she was transferred to Vibra Specialty Hospital to help her be weaned off of the ventilator
Carolyn continued her progress at Vibra, working with the respiratory therapists on breathing exercises. There was some concern about her blood CO2 levels getting too high after a number of hours off the ventilator. But gradually she was able to be off the ventilator with no CO2 problems. The lung infection she had developed seemed to be dissipating and the slight fever she was running went away. She became strong enough to be off the ventilator for sixteen hours. Then she went twenty hours off the vent, and eventually twenty four hours. Finally the day came for Carolyn to breathe on her own.
And so ends another success story – but for Carolyn and Edmund, a new beginning, and a chance to continue the life they love together. Edmund writes,
All that remains of this story is a little muscle rehab therapy, a homecoming, and a reckoning...I reckon that we had several miracles. Certainly, it was a nightmare and there were many bumps in the road, but we won. The miracles include the massive amount of technologies that were used, the fantastic business facilities and their employees, the terrific chemicals involved, the whopping number of high-caliber people and their training, intelligence, diligence, and love, the family and friends who sent their prayers and good wishes, and the event/entity/idea/existence of Vibra Specialty Hospital. And who made all of these strange events possible? I reckon we know that answer, too. All we can do is say, ‘Thanks again,’ once more. Offered with much love, Edmund and Carolyn and Rich.