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A Hole in His Heart

09/22/2015

JACK CREAHAN WAS A HEALTHY 25-YEAR-OLD RUNNING A HALF-MARATHON through Downtown Crossing until, suddenly, he collapsed of heatstroke. Jack was rushed to Tufts Medical Center, thrust into an ice bath and placed in a medical-induced coma. A breathing tube kept him alive as a team of specialists figured out what went wrong—and his family waited helplessly. Awakened two weeks later, Jack learned his diagnosis: a hole in his heart.

Q: What happened after the doctors woke you up?
A: Well, the first week was pretty foggy. I could process what the doctors told me, but the significance of it didn’t sink in until later. Over the next few weeks, they weaned me off the drugs and kidney dialysis, which was 24/7 at one point. I did leg exercises to prep for rehab and rebuild my strength. I give credit to the nurses for encouraging me to fight and get going again. That made a big difference.

Q: How did the hole in your heart impact your health?
A: The doctors discovered the atrial septal defect when I was in intensive care. I never noticed any symptoms before, but it was probably a factor in the heatstroke. I returned to Tufts Medical Center a year later to repair the hole, and it was as simple as heart surgery could possibly be. Minimally invasive through my femoral artery. Went home the next day.

Q: Four years later, how are you doing?
A: I’ve made a full recovery. I had several follow-up appointments, but everything looks great for my heart and kidney function. I’m conscious not to overexert myself with cardio, but I go to the gym several times a week.

Q: You spent several weeks at the hospital—and now you come back voluntarily?
A: I had a unique experience because I was so uninvolved in my care early on. But I was lucky to be at Tufts Medical Center. The way the staff communicated with my parents and wife, Kara, was impressive. The team was clearly integrated, from ER to ICU to the heart and kidney specialists. So I wanted to give back by joining the Patient and Family Advisory Council. We meet once a month to discuss what it’s like to be a patient here at Tufts Medical Center. It’s a great forum to give feedback to the medical community and try to make things even better.