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Son's Trip to the ER Saves His Mother's Life

For Shawn and Dawn, the day started normally. They were getting ready to greet Shawn's family, who were flying down to Florida to baby-sit the couple's two young sons, Dylan and Ryan, while Dawn and Shawn spent a just-the-two-of-us weekend getaway in Daytona.

Then Dylan's teacher called Dawn and said she'd better pick him up from school. The 5-year-old was throwing up, in pain and running a high fever. Thinking Dylan might have appendicitis, Dawn drove him straight to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Shawn left his job at a local luxury hotel and headed to the hospital to meet his wife.

When Shawn arrived, he found his son sitting calmly with a nurse. "Dylan," Shawn said, looking around, "where's Mommy?"

After carrying Dylan into the ER, Dawn had fainted shortly, and Memorial's staff had taken her to Memorial Regional Hospital’s adult ER – right next door.

Shawn wasn't overly concerned. He knew Dawn had a history of PVC – premature ventricular contraction. In fact, his 41-year-old wife was taking beta blockers for the condition, and had even fainted before.

"But when they walked me over to the adult ER," Shawn says, "and I saw this crowd of people around a bed, working hard on a patient, my first comment was, 'Whoa, I'm in the wrong room. That's someone else.' And I heard a voice say, 'Sir, that someone is your wife.'"

Worries Double for Young Father and Husband

Shawn was stunned. He'd come to the hospital because of his son. Now, the adult ER team was trying to shock his wife's heart into beating again.

"After the third shock I heard someone say, 'She's back,'" Shawn says. "That's when I realized how serious this was."

Dawn was stabilized and immediately admitted to Memorial’s Cardiac and Vascular Institute. With Dawn in the ICU and Dylan still being examined at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for a possible appendectomy, Shawn felt overwhelmed.

"I wasn't thinking clearly at first," he says. "But Memorial's family advocates were as good as they could be. They helped me make calls to get friends to sit with us at the hospital, and notify family. They walked me back and forth between the two ERs. I really don't know how I would have gotten through those hours without them."

As a professional in the hospitality industry, Shawn knows great service when he sees it – and he saw it at Memorial.

"It wasn't one person. It was everybody," he says. "The nurses in the ICU were so attentive. They answered all our questions and were very patient with us. They greeted me by name in the hallway. They constantly came by and called to check on Dawn. They were genuinely concerned about her, and about us."

'I Would Have Died'

Awais Humayun, MD, and the Cardiac and Vascular Institute's team treated Dawn using the Arctic Sun, a noninvasive, therapeutic temperature management system that reduces core body temperature in critically ill patients. The machine placed Dawn in a hypothermic coma to help prevent any brain damage from her trauma. A few days later, the Memorial team inserted an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a device that detects irregular heartbeats and shocks the heart back to normal.

Dylan, meanwhile, had his appendectomy the morning after his arrival at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital and was sent home to a quick recovery. "My mother was baby-sitting Dylan and she called me at the hospital," Shawn says. "She said, 'Your son is out riding his bicycle. Is that OK?'"

As for Dawn, her ICD continues to work well, and she marvels at her good fortune.

"Not every hospital has the great people and high-tech equipment that Memorial has. I want people to know, we are so lucky to have such a great hospital so close to where we live," she says. "If I hadn't taken Dylan to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital for his appendix, I think I would have died."

"If this had happened anywhere else, she wouldn't be here today," Shawn says. "I tell people there's nowhere else they should go other than Memorial and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. They saved my wife and son."


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