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Open heart surgery is rough, but you are lucky to survive two times



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He Almost Didn't Make It...

B. Craig Johnson (better known to country music dancers as Central Florida's favorite nightclub DJ "Dusty Miller") came terrifyingly close to becoming a statistic during the afternoon of February 21, 2001 when an aneurysm on his aorta ruptured between the valve and the arch of the aorta extensively damaging his aortic heart valve. The result was an ascending aortic dissection (a rupture or tearing of his aorta) down into his body. This in turn caused two blood clots to form and then tear loose, one lodging in his right leg while the other lodged in his coronary artery.

Local paramedics with EVAC Ambulance, recognizing a cardiac problem, the blood clot, and the blockage in his right leg, transported Dusty to Florida Hospital (Deland, Florida) with all possible speed. There, by performing an angioplasty, doctors were able to partially break the blood clot in his right leg and restore limited circulation to that leg, but could do nothing for the more serious problem which was the now leaking heart valve and the extensively damaged aorta which was pumping blood into his chest cavity. This same problem caused the death of actor John Ritter in 2003.

Dusty was transferred just before midnight via a trauma helicopter from Tampa General Hospital (Tampa, Florida) to Shands' Hospital at the University Of Florida in Gainesville but not before his pastor was told to "stay with the family" as he was not expected to survive the flight. Pastor John Regan, who served in Vietnam shortly after Dusty did, gave a "battlefield" prayer over his friend while hanging partially out of the helicopter before the air ambulance lifted off.

Upon arrival at Shand's Hospital shortly after midnight, emergency surgery was performed repairing and replacing the heart valve with the valve from a pig's heart, and replacing and rebuilding the aorta with a piece of man-made material called gel-weave. In addition, a coronary by-pass was performed using a vein from his left leg, and a fem-to-fem by-pass across his groin from one leg to the other was done using a tube made from a man-made material called Gore-Tex to restore blood flow to his right leg.

Medical personnel stress that the survival rate for the problem Dusty suffered is less than 1% and that most people will die within the first 15 to 30 seconds after being hit with this problem. At one point during the procedure, Dusty's body was being cooled to sub normal temperatures to allow the surgery to proceed, but his heart unexpectedly stopped. Not worried in the least, Dr. Thomas Martin hooked his brain up to a heart-lung machine and started the surgery. For 33 minutes, Gloria was a widow.

Dusty was hospitalized again on October 9, 2003, just two weeks before the annual Country Time line dance cruise when he developed a staph infection of the bloodstream, a condition which quite often is fatal. Released from the hospital the night before the cruise was to leave, he was prohibited from going by his doctors, and was kept home with a nurse and an intravenous anti-biotic for three months. In March and April Dusty was hospitalized again for 12 to 15 days each when the infection became resistant to the anti-biotics being used. He was airlifted back to Shand's Hospital May 12, 2004. Dr. Martin, who performed the operation in February of 2001 replaced Dusty's entire thorasic aorta using a Dacron tube. After 2 weeks in the hospital and 8 weeks on home health care, Dusty was once again "up and around" although he is now considered 100% disabled.

In April of 2007, that staph infection in his blood stream reared its ugly head again causing some internal bleeding. Transported to Shands Hospital for the third time, Dusty was placed in a forced coma for nine days to allow the bleeding to subside and then spent another 13 days in the bed relaxing at the hospital.

 

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