Sandy Toth’s family thought she was overcome with grief when she fainted while making funeral arrangements for her father. Her daughter, Kristen Wilkinson, asked the funeral home to call an ambulance after she couldn’t get her mother back on her feet.
“I thought she was having a panic attack,” said Kristen. “I kept asking her to talk to me, focus on her breathing, but then she passed out and I knew something more serious was happening.”
The ambulance took Sandy to the Emergency Department at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center (PSJMC) in Joliet. Her vital signs were stable but she began complaining of abdominal pain and had a hard time walking. Her cardiologist, Dr. Ramesh Patel, recommended she stay overnight for observation.
The next morning when her blood pressure had dropped down to the 40’s, Dr. Bhavin Shah, PSJMC Surgical Oncology, was called to examine Sandy. Her Hemoglobin had gone from 13 to 7.6.
“She was clearly losing blood so I transferred her to the ICU,” said Dr. Shah. “We could tell there was some retroperitoneal bleeding on the CT scan and interventional radiologist Dr. Noah Schwind embolized several arteries that fed the active bleed before I took Sandy into surgery. During surgery, I found a hematoma [clotted blood within the tissue]. I washed the clot off but her stomach continued to swell and bleed afterwards, so we had to perform a second surgery. I was finally able to stabilize the area with sutures to stop the bleeding. We were very concerned–Sandy lost about 4-5 liters of blood by now which is about all of her blood volume.”
During her recovery over days, Sandy received more than 40 units of blood and blood products as the medical team chased her coagulation parameters. Over the next two weeks it was touch and go as Sandy lay heavily sedated in the intensive Care Unit (ICU) on a ventilator.
“There was a moment during this whole ordeal when I thought that we were going to lose my mom,” said Kristen. “I cannot give enough praise to the ICU nurses and staff that supported and cared for not only my mom, but also my family. As a family, we were also appreciative of both Drs. Shah and Patel who kept my mom stable and always made sure that my family was informed throughout the process.”
“This is the kind of patient that could have had a bad outcome at any hospital without the efforts of every single person involved in her care,” said Shah. “It was truly a team effort from the ICU nurses, surgeon, operating room nurses, interventional radiology, anesthesiology, hematology, oncology, the critical care pulmonary team–without all of their skill Sandy would not have made it. Our nurses were stars in taking care of her. Early recognition, timely intervention and exceptional coordination led to the best care for such an unstable patient and a good outcome at the end. I thank everybody involved in her care.”
Sandy did wake up in time for New Year’s Eve, and was discharged from PSJMC on January 9, 2016. “When I woke up I had no idea where I was; my last memory was at the funeral home,” said Sandy. “I can’t thank Dr. Shah and his team at St. Joe enough for saving my life.”
There was one more person that Sandy needed to thank. “I know dad was looking out for me, he was my guardian angel.”
Kristen Wilkinson with mother Sandy Toth at PSJMC.
Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center (PSJMC) is a regional referral center recognized for overall Clinical Excellence. Recently named to the “Top Hospitals” in Chicagoland area by Chicago magazine, PSJMC serves Will and surrounding counties, including the southwest Chicago suburbs. Located in Joliet, PSJMC offers private patient rooms and world-class health care. Designated as a Primary Stroke Center, Presence Neuroscience Institute also provides 24/7 neurosurgeons, neurologists and neuroendovascular interventionalists. Recognized nationally for advanced cardiac care including a world-class open heart program, PSJMC also offers family-centered obstetrics, and a Level II Trauma Center.
About Presence Health
Created in November 2011, Presence Health is the largest Catholic health system based in Illinois, with over 150 sites of care, including 12 hospitals, 20,000 employees, 4,000 medical professionals and a revenue base of $2.6 billion.