Mike D.

Mike D.

Mike Day and his friend, Greg Hulbert, were busy setting up hunting camp in the mountains of eastern Oregon, looking forward to the arrival of the rest of their hunting party the next day. Mike’s eager anticipation, however, quickly disappeared when he felt intense pain and pressure building in his chest. Turning to Greg, he said, “I think you need to drive me to the hospital.”

A harrowing 55-minute drive down the mountain trail brought Mike to Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande. There, physicians confirmed Mike’s heart attack, and immediately life-flighted him to St Luke’s Medical Center in Boise where he was rushed to the operating room for stent placement. Unfortunately, Mike suffered a series of complications that left him with a very small chance of survival. Back home in Silverton, Mike’s wife, Pennie, received the grim phone call. “Drive fast. We’re not sure we can keep him alive until you get here.”

Pennie made it, and, thanks to the excellent care he received, so did Mike. Each day brought with it another small step towards recovery. “At one point there were 18 tubes or lines connecting Mike to equipment,” observed Mike’s sister, Debra Wakefield. “Each time one was removed, we celebrated.” When they were down to just a handful of tubes, Mike was transferred to Vibra Specialty Hospital in Portland for its staff’s expertise in liberating patients from mechanical ventilation.

Mike’s earliest memories of Vibra are vague, though he remembers his nights were fraught with delusions and night terrors. “I guess I wasn’t always cooperative,” he recalls sheepishly, aware of the understatement. But Mike’s actions never fazed Vibra RN Tom Gettin, who, with no small amount of irony, lovingly dubbed his patient “Sweet Mike.” Another Vibra RN, Gretchen Hart, recognized almost immediately the calming effect Mike’s family had on him and encouraged them to spend their nights at his bedside. The improvement in Mike’s healing environment was dramatic. “My family was so important to my recovery,” says Mike. “I wouldn’t have made it without them.”

Eventually, Mike’s confusion subsided, and he learned to accept the expertise of the nurses and doctors caring for him. “I had to follow their plan,” he says. “I was impatient, but I realized that was the only way I was getting out of here.” The comprehensive plan included respiratory therapists and pulmonologists who freed him from the ventilator, speech therapists who taught him how to swallow, and physical therapists who showed him how to step-pivot-turn. Working together, Vibra’s multi-disciplinary team helped Mike re-learn all the basic activities of daily living in preparation for going home.

Nearly two months after leaving for his hunting trip, Mike is back home in Silverton with Pennie, preparing to go back to work as a real estate broker. He is enormously impressed with the skill, patience, and dedication shown to him at Vibra. Looking back on everything that happened, Mike states with gratitude, “St Luke’s saved my life. Vibra gave me back the quality of my life.”