Dennis VanMeter and family at home.

A daughter’s journal of her father’s heart attack

On August 26, 2018, Dennis VanMeter’s life took an unexpected turn. After mowing the lawn, Dennis discussed the temperature with his wife, Sharon, before heading to their bedroom. A few minutes later Sharon found Dennis unresponsive and called 911.

The couple’s daughter, Suzanne Noonen, kept a journal of the event on Facebook to update family and friends.

August 28, 2018 a.m.

To keep everyone up to date … My dad, Dennis, suffered a massive heart attack Sunday afternoon. Mom found him … and EMT’s worked quickly to get a heartbeat going … They were successful. He was taken to OSF emergency room, where a 100 percent blocked artery and a 95-99 percent blocked artery were found. A stent was quickly put in the fully blocked artery and cleared. They cooled his body to a coma-like state to reduce the risk of taxing his brain. Through the night Sunday, his blood pressure and oxygen were unstable. They gave him Lasix to remove excess fluid and were able to bring up his oxygen levels.

Monday morning showed that the stent did not hold, and he was showing large amounts of damage to the heart. A new stent was put back in along with an Impella device to assist his heart in pumping blood. Both proved to do the job. About 7:15 p.m. Monday, Dad’s heart stopped beating, and the amazing OSF cardio team brought him back quickly. After more tests, his doctor team decided he needed yet another stent … They told us that he had sustained more damage to his heart … and was now working with about 10 percent of his heart’s capacity.

His heart is damaged enough that it’s not really pumping blood on its own. The Impella is doing its job, but it is a temporary device. We don’t know the extent of neurological damage if any  …  Assuming he can pull out of this extremely critical time (because if you know my dad, you know he’s strong like that), he is a candidate for either a mechanical heart or a full transplant. Today (Tuesday) starts the slow warming process to bring him awake, and we will have a few more answers through the next few days. He is still critical.

August 28, 2018 p.m.

Dad’s EKG was better today than last night. He has been warmed back to normal body temperature and is being slowly weaned off the sedatives, some of the drugs supporting his heart and painkillers.

They want to see how his cognitive function starts to present itself, which we probably will not see any of until at least tomorrow when all the sedatives wear off.

His heart is maintaining blood pressure … despite the meds being reduced, and he is taking breaths on his own while still on the ventilator. They will be turning down the pressure on the Impella device a little to allow his heart … the responsibility of pumping.

Praise the Lord for small improvements!

Keep praying!

Making Improvements

August 29, 2018 a.m.

Dad opened his eyes last night! He was moving left and right arms on command, and the nurses said he danced all night (a little out of character for him 😉). Earlier in the evening, the nurses said he had shown the small amounts of cognitive function they were looking for at the time. He was trying to raise himself up all night but would lay back down when we told him to.

They have had to give him a little sedative to calm him down  …  His kidney and liver functions are good, but in all of his moving, he has shifted his Impella device  …  They will readjust it, but they are looking to try weaning his heart off of it  …  The cardiologist said we are definitely moving in a positive direction!

We are so thankful for God’s graciousness and ask that you pray for continued healing! The rest of us are doing well.

August 29, 2018 p.m.

Today has been a good day! The doctors and nurses are pleased with Dad’s progress! His oxygen has been turned way down, a lot of his meds have been turned way down or removed, and he has a feeding tube.

The neurologist is pleased with his progress  …  He remains sedated in order to keep all of his movement from causing problems with the Impella heart pump, which they had to readjust this morning due to “dancing” all night in his bed. The Impella was originally turned up to an eight when put in (about the highest setting, doing all the work of the heart) and is now set to a four. His heart function has improved and is doing some of the work on its own.

The cardiologist will be ready to remove the Impella when he can handle a setting of three (two is the lowest setting). Most likely, the Impella will be removed tomorrow! The nurse told me today that he definitely does not love having his mouth swabbed out, and he makes it clear that he has no interest in the tubes down his throat or the restraints keeping him from yanking all of it out. We are so thankful for the blessing of this progress … and the chance he has been given to continue to heal!

Please pray for an uneventful night and guided hands tomorrow for the Impella removal!

August 30, 2018 a.m.

Good morning! Last night Dad decided to wake up a little aggravated  …  The doctor turned down his Impella device to a two, which is the lowest level! They are planning to remove it, assuming he continues to do well  …  When they talk to him and wake him up, they ask him to move something like a hand or toes, he shakes his head “no.” Our opinion is that he being obstinate is a good thing. If he was being compliant, I would be much more concerned. 😉 All of his vitals look good.

The doctors are still happy with his progress, and they are convinced that his brain function is good! They removed the EEG [electroencephalogram] this morning. While being cautiously optimistic, they started a small discussion on what it will take to get him home. I feel he has been incredibly blessed to be given a chance at healing, and because God made him a fighter, he is continuing to do well. I tell him every day to continue to be the strong guy I know, and the Lord continues to heal him through the knowledge of the hospital staff.

We are all doing well.

Thank you for your continued prayers and love!

Turning the Corner

Dennis VanMeter walking in the hospital with nursing staff.August 30, 2018 p.m.

Dad had a very big day! The Impella was removed via the catheter  …  He continued to fight the doctors and elevated his blood pressure. The cardiologist told mom that he “fired with all four.” The fluid on his lungs increased, which in turn decreased his oxygen levels. They sedated him a little more and turned up his oxygen. He is on some Lasix to help with the fluid and will be weaned off the oxygen overnight. They are expecting to remove the endotracheal tubes tomorrow.

Once his tubes are out, they will sit him up some and stop the sedation. Tomorrow will be another big day! We praise God for His mercies and His Strength! My sister, Rebecca, overheard the cardiologist dictating, and he said that Dad was an “extremely well-built individual with a very supportive family and is expected to leave the hospital.” We couldn’t ask for any more than that.

 ❤️ Pray for the power of God’s healing to continue and for a calm spirit for Dad as he wakes.

August 31, 2018 a.m.

The best news today is that at this moment, there really is no news! Dad had an uneventful night, and his vitals are all good! It seems as though there are not as many nurses in and out as often so I would assume they aren’t feeling the need to be! Neurology came in and had him squeeze his hands and wiggle his toes. All good signs! Just waiting to hear about getting that endotracheal tube out. His eyes are opening fully, and we are trying to give him some comfort at these times he wakes.

Please pray for his comfort and low stress as he starts coming to over the next few days.

Hopefully, more to tell you later!

August 31, 2018 p.m.

There is a lot of fire inside of this man! Dad has continued to try to pull out his endotracheal tube, even with restraints. I am certain after watching him that his plan may be to chew through it as well! Until he can stay calm enough for them to get it out, they will continue sedation, and while he’s on sedation, they won’t take it out. We are in a little bit of a vicious circle, right now.

Evidently, this is very common. His ventilator has been turned all the way down, so his breathing is good. His vitals are great, and they were able to take the catheter lines out of his groin. The doctors told us today that while we are not out of the woods, we can see the end of the woods. Cautiously, we are extremely pleased with Dad’s outcome so far!

Please pray that he can calm down enough to get these tubes out tomorrow!

God is good … all the time!

September 1, 2018 a.m.

Dad had a fairly peaceful night. He was pretty heavily sedated last night and kept fighting through it  …  He has gone through the oxygen weaning and is essentially breathing on his own. He is starting to wake up and actually focus on us. We have even seen a few smiles 😊!

He is still uncomfortable, and the hope is to get the endotracheal tube out today. They would like to see him move a little more on command before they take it out, so we are just waiting for more of the sedation to wear off so we can see him respond some more!

The rest of us are doing well!

Thank you for your continued prayers for healing and peace for Dad!

September 1, 2018 p.m.

THE TUBE IS OUT!!! Dad is off all sedation, and he was able to be cognizant enough to show us he could move hands, feet, fingers and toes on command as well as nodding, smiling, etc., so the endotracheal tube could be taken out.

He was moved to a reclining chair for a little while and is back in his bed, exhausted. He had a lot of questions and is a little frustrated with us since he can’t talk well and we can’t understand everything. Hopefully, tomorrow will prove to be a little less stressful for him!

Please pray for continued healing and peace for him. When everything is quiet, I can see the wheels turning in his brain  …  Hopefully, he will sleep and not dwell too much on the how and why right now.

Recovery

September 2, 2018

Well, it’s been a week since Dad’s heart attack, and he was up walking today!!! Neurology is pleased with his recovery  …  He is fully awake, talking with all of us, and seems content. He will be moved out of ICU to intermediate care! A cardiac rehab nurse told us that after he GOES HOME. He will have eight weeks of cardiac rehab.

We are so thankful to be witnessing this miracle!

Please continue your prayers for healing!

September 3, 2018

Dad was moved out of ICU to a general medical floor last night! I stayed with him overnight  …  His long term memory is better than mine, but occasionally his short term gets the better of him. Not on everything, just some things here and there. This is perfectly normal and will take time.

I am still trying to wrap my brain around the amazing chain of events that have taken place in just one week. Clearly, God has more in store for this guy!

Pray for him as he looks down the road toward rehabilitation and rest. ❤️

September 11, 2018

I haven’t updated in a while because I didn’t have a lot of news to tell you. Every day has continued to be an improvement  …  After waking from sedation, Dad didn’t sleep or hardly eat for 4 or 5 days, and I was becoming concerned. Thankfully he is back on schedule with both! He was denied inpatient rehab because he’s doing so well and is scheduled TO GO HOME either today or tomorrow (they are saying today, but we will see…)!!!

He will have rehab, but he will not be staying in the hospital for it. He is wearing a defibrillator vest and will be re-evaluated after three months to decide if he needs one put in  …  Dad has been walking all over the place and climbing stairs, perfecting his handwriting and working on large and small motor skills. Functionally, he is finally back to his normal self!

I cannot tell you how happy we are that we were given this gift of having the person back that we know and love. This entire experience has been a miracle, and God has given us the gift of experiencing it.

Please pray for continued healing.

Hallelujah!

The promise of tomorrow

Six months later, Dennis has fully recovered. He credits the skilled work of the OSF cardiovascular team led by Dr. Chetan Bhardwaj and the diligent prayer of his family, friends and neighbors.

“God was watching over me. Everybody was praying,” Dennis said. “And I can’t thank the people at OSF enough. They are wonderful.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Take the OSF HealthCare Heart Risk Assessment and learn your heart’s biological age and how to prioritize your most harmful cardiovascular risk factors.