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Crediting God for Doctor's Right Call

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Richard Magnuson recalls that day in October, “The nurse asked me, ‘If your heart stops, do you want to be kept alive?’ And, I said, ‘yes.'” October 12, 2020, 72-year-old Richard told his wife, Pam, he was going to rest in their back bedroom. He’d been suffering for two days from what he thought was a pulled stomach muscle. He says, “I really had no idea what it was, I just know that the pain was severe and I wanted it to go away.” Pam recalls, “I went back there, and he looked pale, and he was laying there not able to get up. I called 911 and the guys were there very quickly.”

Richard was rushed to Lucas County Health Center in Chariton, Iowa – about 10 minutes away. Suspecting a heart attack, doctors gave Richard blood thinners and prepped him to be flown to a larger hospital in Des Moines: MercyOne Medical Center. Waiting for Richard to arrive at MercyOne was vascular surgeon, Dr. Jose Borromeo. He recalls, “The suspicion at that time I was told was that he could have had a heart event. He had severe pain, not so much in his chest but throughout his abdomen and his back. His blood pressure was dipping into the low side which made us very concerned at that time.”

Then, right before Richard was about to be loaded onto the helicopter, a doctor at Lucas County noticed swelling in Richard’s abdomen. He knew at once it wasn’t a heart attack. Dr. Borromeo says, “When they had suspected he had an aneurysm and that he was bleeding from it, that usually requires an emergent transfer just because time is of the essence in those emergencies.” Pam recalls, “Everybody was in a hurry. But he said, ‘Let her say goodbye.’ He's telling me that this is bad enough, that death is going to part us. I didn’t want to hear that.”

Because of Covid protocols, Pam went home to wait for news. Meanwhile, Richard arrived at MercyOne in critical condition and was immediately wheeled in for CAT scans. From those, Dr. Borromeo determined that Richard suffered an abdominal aortic aneurism. Dr. Borromeo says, “Normally the aorta should be around, oh I’d say about 2 cm, we call it an aneurysm when it becomes bigger than 3, and he had a 9 cm aneurysm. But equally ominous was the fact that there was blood outside of his blood vessels, clearly, he was internally bleeding. And that really ups the onus of having to take care of him right away.”

As they prepped Richard for surgery, Dr. Borromeo called Pam. He recalls telling her, “A rough rule of thumb is that 50% of people don’t even make it to the hospital. And then you even have an equally high mortality even with making it to the hospital and getting through surgery. It could be about 80% mortality with a ruptured aneurysm. So, this is clearly a very dangerous, life-threatening condition.” Pam replied, “My heart was sinking at that time. So, I said, ‘Well, can I quick pray for you?’ And he let me, and I just prayed, ‘Lord, guide his hands, show him the right thing to do.’ And that was about it. It was a very short, brief prayer.”

Pam hung up and drove the hour to MercyOne Hospital praying for Richard along the way. She says, “My prayer was, ‘Lord, whatever is Your plan, I'm on board. If it's his time to go be with Jesus, I'm okay. If you bring him back to me, I’ll be even more okay.’” Richard was already in surgery when Pam arrived at the hospital. Dr. Borromeo recalls, “We actually opened him up and replaced that weak wall with a synthetic graft. He had what we call an inflammatory aneurysm, and this is relatively uncommon, I’d say about 10% of people have inflammation around and what that means is everything is stuck. So, in addition to having a big mass of a blood vessel, everything around it stuck and that includes sometimes the structures behind like the intestine. When I was trying to get control of his bleeding, I had to go to the highest point above his aneurysm and it was stuck up there, so there was a small tear in his intestine which I repaired once I had gotten control of the bleeding.”

Meanwhile, Pam found a quiet room to be alone with her thoughts, and God. She recalls, “It was pretty lonely. I had all kinds of thoughts coming through my mind. ‘Lord, I'm still leaving it up to you. But, if he can come back to me, that would be great.’” Around midnight, after six hours in surgery, Dr. Borromeo gave Pam an update. He told Pam. “He did very well all throughout, I would say, Richard is extremely fortunate. Cause he’s defied the odds.” Pam recalls, “I shot outta my seat and I said, ‘Praise the Lord.’ I was so happy. I was just so happy, 'cause God answered the prayer the way I really wanted. I wanted him to come back to me.”

Eleven days later Richard was able to go home. Richard recalls, “I was very thankful. Every time somebody would come in and say, 'man, you're really lucky, then I would thank God.'” Pam says, “We were very, very thankful. I'm still, still saying, 'thank you Jesus.' There are so many things that I'm so thankful for. Yes, He was there. He got us through."

Richard and Pam both believe it was only because of God’s loving care that Richard is alive and well today. Pam says, “Everything God does continues to strengthen my belief and faith and, and dependence on our Lord. Yep. He's got a plan. And apparently, He wasn't done with my husband yet. So, we praise God for that.” Richard says, “I don't know what He has planned for me, but, I know it just wasn't my time. Rely on God. Trust Him and know that He’s there.”

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About The Author

Ed Heath

Ed Heath loves telling stories. He has loved stories so since he was a little kid when he would spend weekends at the movies and evenings reading books. So, it’s no wonder Ed ended up in this industry as a storyteller. As a Senior Producer with The 700 Club, Ed says he is blessed to share people’s stories about the incredible things God is doing in their lives and he prays those stories touch other lives along the way. Growing up in a Navy family, Ed developed a passion for traveling so this job fits into that desire quite well. Getting to travel the country, meeting incredible people, and