Weaning off a ventilator after a heart attack: Dave's story
"They really focused on treating me as a whole patient and addressed the anxiety I had. They gave me the tools to relieve my stress so I could learn to breathe on my own again."
When Dave Demers suffered a heart attack in 2009, he was fortunate to have a superb team caring for him. When a reaction to a medication caused pulmonary hemorrhaging, his doctors needed to take him off blood thinning drugs. This led to a blood clot that caused a second heart attack.
Dave ended up on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own. "I was too sick to do it," recalls Dave, an Upton resident and father of three who was in Pennsylvania for work at the time of his first heart attack.
As Dave started to recover, getting off the ventilator became a top priority. His wife, Karen, a home-care nurse, asked her medical colleagues for recommendations. "Everyone told us that Shaughnessy-Kaplan (now Spaulding Hospital for Continuing Medical Care North Shore) was the place to go, that they had the best statistics for weaning people off ventilators," Dave said.
An air ambulance brought Dave to the hospital's Ventilator Rehabilitation program on July 31. He arrived full of anxiety, struggling with his breathing, doubting he would ever come off the ventilator.
The rehabilitation team stepped in right away. "I gained confidence for the first time that I might be able to do it," Dave said. He worked with his care team to lay out a schedule, opting to push himself to recuperate as fast as possible.
He started weaning off the ventilator on August 3, and was completely free of it seven days later. He credited his care team for his quick success. "I would not have been able to do that," he said, "without the constant encouragement and the array of resources they gave me."
Dave is now back to teaching, traveling internationally, exercising and enjoying every single moment with his family.