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The Story of Survival - Shawn Dillehay

November 20, 2023

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and active, especially in the summer. That’s when I am able to relax and appreciate nature. I remember waking up on June 1st feeling kind of sick as I prepared to mow lawns. I started mowing around 9:00 a.m. and kept feeling worse and worse. Once I finished mowing, I picked up the lawn mower to load it back into my trailer and immediately knew something was wrong. I was lightheaded, hot, disoriented, and sweaty. I knew something had to be off because even I’m not that sweaty. I decided to go home and call my wife to let her know I wasn’t feeling well. I thought a shower would help, but it was quickly followed by a sense of foreboding. My back was hurting, my hands tingled, and I felt a pressure on my chest. Thinking back on it, I realize how all of these are signs and symptoms of a heart attack, but for some reason, it didn’t even occur to me that something like that could happen to me. I mean, I’m only fifty, and I’m in good shape. I found myself feeling nauseas over the toilet and kept thinking I was going to die. That’s when I knew I needed medical help as soon as possible. Thankfully, my wife arrived and asked where I wanted to go. I told her we needed to go to Sidney Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Room right away. 

Once we arrived, I answered questions and gave them my symptoms, all the while trying to breathe and manage my pain. Not long after, Dr. Nein and Shari Makey realized I was having a heart attack, called ST-segment elevation myocardial infraction (STEMI). I was shocked – how could this happen to me? But time was not on my side. I wasn’t able to process much before I coded - twice. I was in and out for a while, unsure what was going on or why people, including my wife, were yelling at me. After I woke up the second time, I could tell my condition was not good, but I felt oddly at peace believing that my time on earth was done. Hower, the hospital staff were not at peace and were definitely not about to give up on me.

Several departments rushed in to help and began performing CPR during the times I coded. Thankfully, through Dr. Nein’s expert care and all the departments involved, I was successfully resuscitated and stabilized. Without those that helped me that day in the emergency room, I would not be here today. Once I was stable enough, the team decided it was best to transport me to UCHealth in Loveland, Colorado, that same day. After the helicopter ride, I was able to sit in my ICU room at 6:00 p.m. and process my traumatic day. The people at SRMC saved my life, I thought. I’m so thankful we had the people and the technology needed to keep me alive. I kept feeling wave after wave of gratitude. I was very grateful that SRMC had a plan in place for emergencies like mine, that they were knowledgeable, and that they never gave up on me. I would like to thank the Emergency Room, Pharmacy, Laboratory, Respiratory Therapy, and Radiology departments for quickly responding to my needs. There were several staff that assisted to keep me stable, so I dare not list them all, but I am immensely grateful for each of them. Thanks to SRMC’s swift diagnosis, their ability to stabilize me, and their decision to transport me to another hospital, I am alive today and able to spend every moment with gratitude. I am very thankful for their care on that life-changing day.

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Now, months later, I recall visiting Steve Rolls in the Walk-In Clinic around January 2023, and discussing some concerning results related to my heart. I had told him that I planned to get my health checked during the summer to make sure nothing serious was wrong with me. I often wonder if I had actually taken my own advice and been proactive about my health if I would have had to go through – and put my family through – such a traumatic experience. Perhaps my heart attack could have been prevented if I had seen the warning signs and scheduled a checkup. I now encourage everyone to make sure they are healthy and that they are not at risk for a heart attack because it is not something you want to take lightly. Your health doesn’t affect only you – it affects everyone who cares about you, so it is important to ensure that your heart and the rest of your body are healthy. 

I would also like to give a special thanks to Lucinda and Kayla for their amazing help at SRMC’s Cardiac Rehab. They helped me find my confidence again to go out and savor life. Now, I enjoy visiting Sidney Regional Medical Center and come out here once a week. They’re like family, and I trust them with my life. SRMC is a blessing!