It was a pain unlike anything Duane Eddy had experienced in his 75 years.
“It felt like my kidneys and back were just in agony, really sore and hurtful,” he said. “The pain got worse as my wife drove me to the hospital. Eventually it got so bad that I was just wishing I would faint and it would go away.”
What he was experiencing was much more severe than simple back pain. Eddy’s aorta had ruptured and he was on the verge of bleeding to death. Within 53 minutes of his arrival, Eddy went from the emergency department to an operating room to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm—a rare and potentially fatal condition in which the lower part of the aorta is enlarged.
From initial assessment in triage, to transporting the patient to Radiology for CT scans, to placing IVs in his arms for a blood transfusion, to prepping the operating room, to preparing the anesthesia, to finally making the first incision, everyone knew their role, they knew what needed to be done, and they knew they had little time.
It was a well-coordinated effort put together at a moment’s notice that involved more than a dozen surgical staff, two Emergency Department nurses, a pair of Radiology technologists, and four physicians.
While some of them claim the stars were aligned perfectly that day, none of them deny Eddy’s survival was the result of highly trained clinical skills, workplace efficiency, and interdepartmental teamwork.
“They are the best of the best, and I can say that honestly because they saved my life,” Eddy said.
“One of my good friends had the same thing happen to him, but sadly he did not make it because his hospital did not have the best of the best.”
More than back pain
After listening to Eddy’s symptoms and taking his vital signs, Ricky Smithson, R.N., determined Eddy was experiencing more than common back pain. An extremely low blood pressure of 70 beats per minute raised a red flag that he may be suffering from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.
“It’s not something you see every day,” said Richard Westgate, R.N., director of WMC’s Emergency Department. “For Ricky to identify the symptoms shows excellent clinical skills and judgment. One of our emergency medicine physicians, James Cleveland, M.D., confirmed Ricky’s diagnosis and they quickly coordinated with Radiology to get scans.”
Training put to test
Even when facing rare cases like an abdominal aortic aneurysm, WMC’s surgical team is ready.
“Our surgical staff is truly amazing to watch in an extremely serious situation. Everyone comes together to pull off heroic feats,” said Jim Hawley, R.N., who oversaw operating room scheduling at that time.
“As soon they heard a patient with an abdominal aortic aneurysm was on his way to the Operating Room everyone who wasn’t assisting with another surgery stopped what they were doing to help. It was not an everyday case, but our team’s confidence in their training and skills made it look like a routine procedure. Every member of the Surgical Services team is invaluable, and they each make a huge difference in patients’ lives every day.”
Cardiovascular team well equipped
Cary Pulliam, M.D., with Middle Tennessee Vascular, said the successful repair did not occur by accident. Rather it was the latest result of WMC’s decade-old decision to develop a focused vascular surgery team.
“This team approach includes not only the vascular surgeons at Williamson Medical Center, but also the Emergency Department physicians, anesthesiologist, radiologists, and their respective staff as well as specially trained operating room staff. Appropriate instrumentation, supplies and vascular implant devices are available for use at any time in the operating room,” Pulliam said.
“WMC’s commitment to high-quality vascular care is evident for the future with the construction of a specially equipped hybrid operating room suite. This state-of-the-art facility will allow for enhanced capability to treat complex vascular disorders using both endovascular and open techniques. The end result is safer, better patient outcomes.”