A Registered Nurse’s Brush With Death

Good morning all!  By way of introduction, my name is Stephanie Shore Jewett, a proud nursing graduate of Mercy Medical Center (class of 1977), a registered nurse with Mercy for over 20 years, a mother of two great sons, ages 17 and 25 AND a new grandmother to Anson Jewett, age 5 months. Further, I am the great grand-daughter of F.E.V. Shore, the 4th Chief of Staff of Mercy, who was also instrumental in bringing Mercy to Des Moines, Iowa.  Both my grandfather, Gerald A. Jewett, Sr. and my father, Gerald A. Jewett, Jr. have been very active in serving on several of the Mercy Boards in the past.  I continue the loyalty to Mercy with strong ties from the Shore’s and the Jewett’s.

Just 4 short weeks ago (May 26, 2012 to be exact) I had my youngest son take me to the Mercy ER due to shortness of breath and chest pain.  Having had numerous blood clots in the past (both in my legs and my lungs), I just assumed it was again these massive clots that I had been familiar with in prior years – one thing you learn in nursing school is NEVER assume anything.  Well, I had something far worse, cardiac tamponade with infective endocarditis and pericarditis, infection and inflammation in and around the heart sac.  My dear father, Jerry Jewett (age 86) and wonderful sister, Jennifer Jewett Dilley (also my medical power of attorney) were there with me every step of the way.  Jennifer arrived at 5:00 AM every day, my special high school friend, Sue Sears, was there every morning at 6:00 AM before her work as well.  My father kept saying that the worst thing he could think of would be to lose a child.  My mother was there in spirit, as I just lost her earlier in the month due to tongue cancer.  In fact, the day I woke up, a quick thinking sister had brought mom’s remains and placed them at my bedside.

I was so sick that I was placed very quickly on a ventilator (intubated).  Due to the fact that I was already on Coumadin (a blood thinner), the appropriate coagulation studies were taken (which were elevated) and had to be corrected prior to being whisked off immediately to surgery.  The cardiac surgeon made the correct medical decision to insert a filter to discourage any clot formation from going from my legs to my lungs.  Without intervention this disease is fatal; sometimes it is fatal even with the steps that were taken.  The biggest problems that occur with these types of infections are the possible complications that can and did arise: DVT (deep vein thrombosis), SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), fever and infection spreading to the lungs, seizures, any type of prior radiation therapy to the chest area which holds fluid in the lungs, unsuccessful extubation after intubation, re-intubation, swelling in the throat and vocal cords, a rise in blood sugar due to steroid use and tube feedings, dangerously low blood pressures, persistent, rapid heart rate and even kidney failure.

So which complications did I encounter?  ALL of the above; I was lifeless, and for all practical purposes clinically dead, in the SICU (surgical intensive care unit), bed 32, for 2 weeks remaining in a coma.  It is now referred to as “Miracle in SICU, number 32”.  I cannot tell you how capable and competent the medical professionals were that were on my team – over 75 in all!  These included ER doctors, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, infectious diseases, pulmonologists, immunologists, nephrologists, neurologists, medical physicians, oncologists, physician assistants and a host of nursing staff, physical and occupational therapists, all making superb and accurate medical judgments each and every day.  No wonder Mercy has the slogan “Excellence every day in every way” – it is absolutely true.  The dedication and precision of this brilliant staff truly kept me alive, facing every problem that I encountered, a new one, sometimes several, every day.  And I was literally at the hands of this very incredible team – not knowing anything that was going on for 2 weeks!  I was placed on intravenous wide-spectrum antibiotics until the final culture reports were obtained.

Alas awake and extubated on June 8, 2012, PT (physical therapy) had me up and walking within a few hours of extubation (removal of the ventilator):

I stayed in the SICU one more night for oxygen saturation checks and being certain that I remained stable before heading off to the private room.  I remember very well the whole night – I stayed awake as I was SO afraid I would go into another coma.  After returning to the floor (9 South) I faced a stable nursing staff and marvelous caregivers.   I wept as I read through my chart, not having a clue how sick I really was this whole time and not believing that I had been “out” for 2 full weeks.  My youngest son had to take me down in a wheelchair right away to the chapel to pray.  How was I afforded to live?  How were others not?  I then called the Chaplain, Doug Raymond, who came to my room to visit about this miracle and to make some sort of sense out of everything I had been through.  We had a wonderful chat and things started to make more sense to me, but I thought my work was not done as of yet.  In addition to my regular job at home as a nurse reviewing medical records, I truly believe I can help others that have come through or are going through similar situations.  I was finally discharged on June 13, 2012 with a clean bill of health – use to hate the 13th, now it is my lucky number!  Long story short:  HATS OFF TO ALL THE MEDICAL STAFF AT MERCY MEDICAL CENTER – I THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE!!





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