In early October 2020, Tom Beck, a bright, healthy, active 79-year-old, went in for a routine, out-patient procedure—cardiac ablation—to treat his atrial fibrillation. An hour later, he was fighting for his life.
During the procedure, a tiny catheter is threaded through a blood vessel on its way to the heart. But in Tom’s case, the catheter pierced his left ascending artery, causing a massive hemorrhage. For a full 28 minutes, the surgical team worked to keep him alive with CPR while the hospital tried frantically to locate their only thoracic surgeon. Although he wasn’t scheduled to work that day, the surgeon just happened to be in the building. Minutes later, Tom was being prepped for open-heart surgery.
Waiting and hoping
The hospital contacted Barb, Tom’s wife of 55 years, telling her she needed to come immediately. Barb called her daughter, Jen, who called her sister, Heather, and together, they waited at the hospital, not knowing if Tom would survive.
After many hours, the thoracic surgeon emerged from the operating room. Tom was intubated, he said, but there was no way to predict how he would come out of this, given how long they’d done CPR. Jen and Heather stayed at his bedside all night, tending to him to make sure he was comfortable until the tube could be removed. “My dad couldn’t talk, but he let us know what he needed by drawing letters with his finger on my palm or squeezing my hand when I’d go thru the alphabet,” Jen said. The doctors removed the tube before sunrise. He had survived.
Next steps—too many of them
When the hospital cleared Tom for discharge, Jen realized there were no plans in place. “No one was asking who would be there to take care of him or whether there were stairs in his house,” she said. “In fact, his bedroom is on the second floor and his office is in the basement, so there was no way that was going to work.” At that point, she pivoted from Jen, the adult daughter, to Jennifer Beck-Schmidt, DC, RN, General Manager of Homespire. “Suddenly, I was having to advocate for my dad, just like we do for our Homespire clients.”
The family decided to move Tom to Heather’s house which had a bedroom and bathroom on the main level.
“My dad was really sick and pretty miserable—he was on oxygen, bruised from head to toe, and in a lot of pain,” she said. “Here was a guy who absolutely loved to ski, hike, and scuba dive, and now he could barely walk, even with a walker.”
From her experience working with clients following a catastrophic health event, Jen knew that her dad’s care would involve everything from helping him bathe and dress to managing his medications and changing his bandages. That’s when she suggested they bring in Homespire.
The family met with Meggan Newbold, RN, Homespire Nurse Care Manager, who became Tom’s health care advocate, arranging in-home physical therapy and oxygen delivery, making sure he was getting the home health services he needed, and enlisting a Homespire caregiver to help with showering and dressing. Caregiving services only lasted a couple of weeks because, according to Jen, her off-the-charts independent father decided he didn’t need outside help.
Meggan said that Tom’s determination to get better played a huge part in his recovery. “He really wanted to move back home, to his computer, his telescope, his own space—and that meant being able to climb stairs,” she said. After four weeks at his daughter’s house, he was off oxygen and healthy enough to return home. Cognitively, he was more forgetful, Meggan said, but considering what he’d been through, everyone was surprised at how well he was doing.
Power of persuasion
Meggan described Tom as an incredibly bright man who loves to do his own research, adding that it was he, not his doctor, who caught his need for an ablation—courtesy of his personal EKG machine. The problem, she said, was that he was using his research to manipulate his physician into prescribing different drugs.
According to Jen, her dad had been doing this for years. As his daughter, she didn’t have a lot of influence over him, although he did allow her to take him to his cardiology and ultrasound appointments. As his nurse, Meggan was able to take over his care coordination and medication management.
There were, however, a few bumps in the road, she said. “Every time I came over, Tom would tell me, ‘I don’t think I need this drug anymore so I’m just going to go off it,’ or ‘I want to add this in,’ and I would say, ‘Nope, you’re not making any changes without first consulting your doctor.’” What finally persuaded him to stand down was respect for her nursing license. “I told him that I’d written an order to manage his medications, and if he manipulated them, I could lose my license,” she said with a smile.
A few months after Meggan began supporting Tom, she asked Barb, age 78, if she would be interested in medication management. Barb readily agreed. Now, when the couple goes traveling, Meggan packs both their medications for the length of the trip—plus an extra week’s worth because, as she said, “they’re notorious about not coming home on time.”
Driven to age magnificently
The family continues to be amazed at Tom’s progress. Last summer, less than a year after open-heart surgery, he and Barb drove their camper van down to Southern Utah to go hiking and to Arizona for one of Barb’s photography projects. And this past winter, they went downhill skiing in Utah and scuba-diving in Belize which, according to Meggan, “amazes her for someone who just had open heart surgery a year ago and was using a walker not that long ago.”
When Barb had a diving incident, Tom became her caregiver, finding good medical care for her in Belize and supporting her just as his family and Homespire supported his recovery. Once the couple returned to Utah, Meggan arranged for additional services to help Barb get back on her feet. “As I’ve gotten to know Tom and Barb, I’m not surprised at how well they’re doing—they’re really quite amazing!” she said.
Whatever your goals, Homespire is passionate about helping you achieve them so that you can age magnificently! To learn more, schedule a free consultation or call us at 801-503-3200.