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El Camino Hospital and Me

Jim’s Story: Ruptured Aneurysm

On August 6, 2010, I was home in my upstairs office when I experienced a sudden and dramatic fainting spell.

Aneuryism patient with fish

I had no other symptoms of any kind — no abdominal pain, no indication of anything seriously wrong. I felt I was very healthy and had kept my records of blood pressure, cholesterol, PSA, etc., continually up to date through periodic visits to my doctors at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. I also was in good shape, not overweight, as I weighed 185 pounds at 6 feet, 2 inches. I didn't smoke or drink much alcohol.

I have my own consulting practice. (I am a graduate civil engineer and a professional mechanical engineer, and hold a real estate broker's license and an inactive general contractor's license). I was on the phone with an architect about a project when I began to faint. I hung up the phone and thought if I could just lie down this would pass and I would be fine.

I started down the stairs to our bedroom and on the way collapsed onto the first floor. I managed to crawl to my bedroom and get to the phone. Thankfully it was there and fully charged! I called 911 and told the operator I was dying. The paramedics arrived quickly. Luckily, my doors were unlocked and our two giant schnauzers were in Aptos with my wife.

The 911 operator had attempted to engage me in conversation, but by this time I was lapsing into unconsciousness. When the paramedics arrived, they lifted me onto a gurney and moved me to the ambulance. The last thing I recall was being in the ambulance on the way to El Camino Hospital, where I was briefly conscious. I do not remember anything else until approximately four days later when I awoke in intensive care and saw my wife in the room.

It turns out I had a ruptured aneurysm! Dr. Rob Mitchell, vascular surgeon at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, performed my surgery. I was told the operation took more than six hours, and my blood pressure dropped to zero twice. In spite of all that, Dr. Mitchell and the team of nurses kept going.

Dr. Mitchell came out to speak to my wife and four children, three of whom are doctors. He informed them that I had a 50 percent chance of making it alive to the hospital, a 50 percent chance of surviving the operation, which it looked like I had done, and a 50 percent chance of surviving through intensive care.

The El Camino staff was extremely helpful from the time I was admitted until I was discharged some eight days later. They assisted my wife at every step of my stay, much of which I did not know until I was recovered. They escorted her to the waiting room, they arranged for her and my older daughter, an OB/GYN, to spend the nights with me while I was unconscious and in a coma.

I was transferred to telemetry (a care unit where patients get specialized cardiac care and monitoring) for the next four days and was then assisted to get out of bed, walk and even do light exercises. I was in such a mental fog that I do not remember many names of the nurses who were helping me, but it was a steady stream of staff day and night, all very pleasant and very professional, continually checking my vital signs, including my blood pressure and weight, which had dropped to 160 pounds!

I can say that I was unbelievably fortunate in every aspect from the 911 call, the rapid arrival of the paramedics, the rapid transportation to El Camino, the constant contact with my wife, the care and treatment of my family and my medical treatment, and the surgical skill of Dr. Rob Mitchell to my recovery in El Camino Hospital.

It has taken me almost a year plus three more visits to the hospital to fully recover and I consider myself very, very lucky, including living in the Bay Area to receive such outstanding medical treatment. My wife and our family are very appreciative of the personal, kind care given to them by El Camino Hospital and we have said many times how wonderful the hospital was to me and to them.