Patient Story – Greg Hetherington
An Unexpected Health Alarm
“I was a little dizzy, a little out of wind, a little tired, but I honestly kept going back to… ‘Oh I’ll be fine and I guess this is just what being 49 feels like.’” It was a Friday afternoon in May when Greg Hetherington, a resident of Wallaceburg, was out enjoying a round of golf and looking forward to the weekend ahead. “After playing 15 holes I said to my father-in-law who I was playing with, ‘I’m really done, I’m tired.’ And I was tired but I didn’t know that I was really sick.”
Having suffered from back pain in the past, Greg wasn’t initially aware that this pain may be a sign of a serious health condition. “I usually get lower back pain but this was upper back pain. On the Friday night I couldn’t sleep at all, on Saturday night I couldn’t sleep either and on Sunday the same thing – the only thing that was comfortable was sitting in a chair sleeping.” On Monday morning Greg called his Chiropractor, Dr. Currier, looking for some relief. “He did some work on my back and I had a rib out which happens to me a lot, especially if I play golf.” After his treatment, Greg left in a hurry to get back to his workday but Dr. Currier insisted he return in the afternoon, as he was concerned that Greg’s situation was perhaps more than musculoskeletal. When Greg returned without any improvement and after answering a few more inquires, he was advised to immediately proceed to the Emergency Department for a diagnosis.
As a business owner and landlord, Greg still decided to forge ahead with his “to do” list for the rest of the day – still not entirely convinced that he was facing a threatening health issue. “I needed to show my apartment because we had some renters that were coming. So I went and did that and then I finally thought, ‘Alright I’ll go to emerge.’”
Greg headed to CKHA’s Sydenham Campus Emergency Department (ED) at 3:15 that afternoon and explained his symptoms to the triage nurse who almost immediately recognized what the problem was. With very little wait time, Greg was seen by a physician. “I’m getting a blood thinner injected into my stomach and at 3:45 sent off in an ambulance to CKHA’s Chatham Campus for diagnosis. Shortly after at 4:15 I’m in Chatham, at 4:30 I’m getting a CT scan done and at 4:45 I’m diagnosed with blood clots in my lungs. It was the fastest results I could ever ask for.”
Greg was then admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and spent time recovering under close observation and monitoring. Blood clots that occur in the lungs or pulmonary emboli can be life threatening if left undiagnosed and untreated. “Part of having blood clots is having some really bad back pain. I had a couple of doses of morphine and was finally able to sleep for the first time in four nights.”
Eventually Greg was transferred to the Progressive Care Unit (PCU), where he resided for a couple more nights before his discharge from hospital. “I’ve been healthy all my life and I’d never stayed overnight before in the hospital. So I’ve been pretty fortunate that I’ve got good genes – I never guessed that something like this could happen.” Greg is now on life-saving medication – anti coagulants, which reduces the formation of blood clots in the veins.
As a local radio personality, Greg shared his healthcare experience at CKHA with his Twitter followers while recovering. “I tweeted a little bit, but my wife was on me not to be doing too much. So I rested for three days and my team at work was amazing – they covered all my stuff going on that week and encouraged me to take as much time as I needed.” Shortly after, he eased back into work but now prioritizes more time for rest and relaxation. “I’m pretty much back to normal now. I’m feeling tons better and I’m almost at 100 per cent.”
An inter-professional collaborative team provided the safe, high quality care that made Greg’s experience exceptional. “My experience in the ICU and the PCU were spectacular from start to finish. I can’t say enough about all the doctors and nurses that I dealt with along the way and also the paramedics in the ambulance.” He acknowledged having close access to the Sydenham Campus ED as encouragement to initiate his prognosis; “I pushed off my visit for an hour and half and then thought ‘Oh it’s just around the corner, I’ll go and do it.’ If it was half an hour away I might not have gone. I would have never guessed that I had blood clots in my lungs.”
A few staff members and physicians stood out during Greg’s experience, who he acknowledged personally. “The nurse that was very intuitive to what might be wrong with me at the Sydenham Campus, Lisa, the nurse who accompanied me in the ambulance and stayed with me in the ICU for my first few hours, Annette O’Neil, Dr. Hassan at the Sydenham Campus, Dr. Yee who did my CT scan, and Cheryl Simpson the nurse in the ICU, who reassured my wife with regular updates my first night in the hospital. As well as the follow-up care from my friends Drs. Jennifer and Peter MacKinnon.”
Greg added that the compassionate care he received made all the difference during his time at CKHA, as well as a little help at home. “There’s the health, the medicine, the fixes – but the care you really can’t teach. That’s something that’s innate in people and within and the care that I got was great. And so was Kelly, my wife, with nursing me back to health when I got home.”
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