A Change of Heart; Through Clinical Collaboration and God’s Grace

By Dana Barfield

When Baptist Health Care joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network in 2013, the Gulf Coast community of Pensacola celebrated the clinical collaboration and welcomed the additional resources it would bring to the local care of residents. A closer relationship with Mayo Clinic gives Baptist patients access to world-renowned expertise, often with the option to remain close to home. Since joining the network, countless patients have been helped and many lives saved by the combined skills of Baptist and Mayo Clinic experts.

One such case is that of heart patient, Jonathan Richmond of Pensacola. In 2000 the then 46-year-old Richmond was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a chronic condition in which the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should. Since that time, Richmond’s condition has been managed with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), medication and lifestyle changes, his blood pressure and weight carefully monitored by a nurse with his insurance company. “The option of a heart transplant was presented to me and I said, ‘no way!’” said Richmond. “I didn’t know then, but the Lord would eventually take that decision out of my hands.”

Richmond’s story is a true testament to the value of clinical collaboration. But even more importantly for Richmond and his family, it revealed the mysterious and benevolent workings of a loving God. This is Richmond’s account of how a series of miracles brought him back from the brink of death and restored him to his family.

Jonathan’s Story

One morning in November 2015 my blood pressure was quite low, and I received a call from my nurse telling me to go to the emergency room, which I promptly did. I was having difficulty breathing, and I couldn’t keep any food down because my digestive system had already shut down. My kidneys and liver were beginning to shut down as well.

Brent Videau, M.D., FACC, FASE tried to get certain blood readings from a catheter in my neck to send to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, but I inadvertently pulled out the catheter in my sleep. I was told later that had Dr. Videau gotten the readings, I would not have been eligible for treatment because the readings would have shown that I was already too far gone. The good Lord was reaching in to give me more time.

Dr. Videau knew Mayo Clinic transplant cardiologist Daniel S. Yip, M.D., in Jacksonville and contacted him. Fortunately, a room was available, and I was transported to Mayo Clinic by ambulance. After a couple of days my vital signs went squirrely, and they put me in the ICU, again for close monitoring. My son asked Dr. Yip, “Doc, what’s the plan?” His reply was, “Tonight we pray. If he’s still alive in the morning, we’ll put him on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine.” The ECMO was known to be a last chance at life. Because of the severity of their condition, one in ten people that go on an ECMO survive. The next day I was connected to the only ECMO machine available in hopes that it would give my organs time to heal and put me in good enough condition to be considered for a heart transplant.

During this time Dr. Videau kept in close contact with Dr. Yip, and the cardiology department at Baptist Hospital called Mayo Clinic and asked them to let me know that they were praying for me. I learned later from my son that a message a friend had sent out on Facebook regarding my condition had received a lot of attention, people all over the world saying they were amazed by the miracles of God and they were praying for my recovery. I do believe God heard their prayers.

Due to my unique heart characteristics, I was placed at the top of the transplant list for my heart type. Within 24 hours, miraculously, a heart was available and my vitals had improved enough that Dr. Yip felt we should attempt the transplant as soon as possible.

The surgeon removed my old failed heart and said it was amazing that it was working at all. My old heart was nothing but mush. One of the transplant team members told my family that my clock had been turned back 30 years.

Recovery was long and touch-and-go at times. But the results of my ten-month heart biopsy showed no rejection. That is practically unheard of! It has now been a little over a year since I was transferred to Mayo Clinic and every day is a blessing. I thank my sons who drove from Chattanooga and Fort Walton to be with me through my transplant and recovery. I thank my wife who has stuck with me through thick and thin; for better and for worse; in sickness and in health. And I thank God. He revealed Himself and his mercy, grace, love, compassion and power to my entire family through the lifesaving expertise of Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute and Mayo Clinic.

To learn more about Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute and Baptist’s membership in the Mayo Clinic Care Network, visit eBaptistHealthCare.org.

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