Another 15 - 20 Minutes and I Would Have Been Dead
Davey Lundberg thought he had caught a flu bug that was making the rounds in his hometown of Ivanhoe, Minn.
After visiting the doctor he was sent home with antibiotics. Instead of getting better he felt worse, waking up in the middle of the night with a worsening cough and drenched in sweat from fever.
At work one morning, he started feeling poorly again with fever and dizziness. By the time he got home he was having trouble breathing and called his wife to come take him to the Hendricks Community Hospital, a partner facility of Avera Health.
“That was the scariest trip I think I've made in a very, very long time,” his wife Ila Lundberg said. “He was gasping for air; he was shaking. Part of it was shock, but his whole body was shaking, and he was having such a hard time breathing.”
A Close Call
Davey’s sickness stemmed from Q fever, a bacterial infection that can be spread from breathing in feces from infected animals or other contaminated droplets, which Davey believes he contracted working on his father’s farm. Days earlier he had been tested for a possible infectious disease, but it wasn't until the morning he went to the emergency room that Ila received the results.
Doctors later found he also had a tear in his esophagus, which had allowed a major infection to fester in his chest cavity that was not only putting pressure on his lungs but affecting his heart rate and kidneys.
They told me after the fact that had I not been airlifted I wouldn't have made it."
“They told me after the fact that had I not been airlifted I wouldn't have made it,” Davey said. “They said, another 15 - 20 minutes and I would have been dead.”
When Davey and Ila arrived at the Hendricks hospital, Dr. Tabb McCluskey, their family doctor in Hendricks, was waiting for them.
“When we saw him he was just shaking like a leaf,” Dr. McCluskey said. “He would get rigors, and if you've ever seen rigors the person cannot sit still. His main complaint was the pain.”
Dr. McCluskey knew that Davey would need transfer to Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, where he could see a specialist. While he was aware of the Q fever diagnosis, it was obvious that something else was wrong. At that point he worried it could be a blood clot in the lungs or heart. He started giving Davey fluids and called eEmergency, an Avera service that streams video feeds between rural hospitals and a hub in Sioux Falls, connecting local doctors with emergency physicians in real time.
“It was obvious from the start that he needed to go,” Dr. McCluskey said. “eEmergency really facilitated the transfer down in a very timely fashion. They also confirm that what you’re doing is appropriate and make suggestions.”
Because a helicopter wasn't available in Hendricks at the moment, Davey was transported to Brookings by ambulance and then flown to Avera McKennan.
While eEmergency can provide valuable consultation between Sioux Falls and rural hospitals, it also gives doctors a head start if a patient does need to be transferred.
“They knew what they were dealing with before he got to Sioux Falls,” Ila said. “They had a jumpstart on a lot of things during that time.”
More Than Q Fever
In Sioux Falls, Davey was quickly transferred from the emergency room to intensive care. Doctors began treating the Q fever but soon discovered his white blood cell count was high. After ordering a series of tests, doctors discovered a massive infection in his chest cavity and a tear in his esophagus that was essentially causing his lungs to collapse.
“There was just so much pressure in my body cavity. Every time I ate or drank, some of it went into my body cavity through the esophagus,” Davey said.
Davey arrived at the emergency room on July 30th and woke up Aug. 6. and it wasn't until Aug. 23 he was able to go home. Davey had a team of specialists working with him in Sioux Falls to ensure he received the proper care for all the issues that stemmed from his diagnosis. He was put on dialysis for his failing kidneys and also had breathing and feeding tubes. He underwent surgery to clean the infection, which included draining mucus from his chest cavity and a stent was placed to help repair the esophagus and stop further leakage.
The day he arrived in the emergency room he weighed 238 pounds and he came home 40 pounds lighter.
While his rehabilitation has been slow, including dialysis for about a month after returning home, besides a few aches and pains he feels good.
It gives you a different outlook on life — to try and live a little bit."
“It gives you a different outlook on life — to try and live a little bit,” he said. “At my job I was working 50 – 60 hours a week. I decided I wasn't going to do that anymore — basically working my life away.”
Davey has rarely been sick in his life and never thought much of the health care services available in Ivanhoe.
“As small as Ivanhoe is, it’s never going to have a hospital like Sioux Falls, but just the fact that they’re associated with Avera, that’s why I went to Hendricks,” he said.
Dr. McCluskey said that provides and increased level of comfort for residents in the area because “They know that if they come here that they will be able to see a specialist in a timely manner.”
The care staff, clergy and social services employees all took the time to answer the Lundbergs’ questions and help them through the logistics of such a long hospital stay.
While she was in the cafeteria one day, Ila even felt compelled to share her experience with one of Avera McKennan’s administrators.
She told him, “I want you to know that of us small-town people, we feel extremely grateful that we have the sort of facilities that Avera has to offer us so close to home. As far as I’m concerned, the care that my husband got is above and beyond what you would ever get in Rochester.”