By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist
The start of a new year is typically a time of eager anticipation and the promise of new beginnings. For Thomas and Tammy Williams, it was a time of terror and the very real possibility of loss.
Near the end of December, Thomas had a tonsillectomy to remove his tonsils and a septoplasty to straighten his nose for better airflow. The procedures went off without a hitch, and he was discharged on the 30th.
On the evening of Jan. 1, while recovering from surgery at his home near Henning, Thomas started to cough. Tammy believes that the force dislodged the healing scabs in his throat. He began bleeding severely and heaving up blood.
Tammy immediately called 911.
The Henning ambulance picked them up and rushed toward Tri-County Health Care. The TCHC ambulance met them along the way. By the time they got to Wadena, Thomas was unresponsive with a dangerously low blood pressure. He entered hypovolemic shock as they pulled into the ambulance garage, having lost so much blood that his heart couldn’t circulate enough to sustain him.
“Dr. Faith was working that night,” Tammy recalled, “and he said it was a matter of life or death.”
With experience as a registered nurse, Tammy knew the gravity of Thomas’ condition. Her mind ran wild as she watched the staff pump Thomas with fluids and blood, hoping to stabilize him.
“I must have looked white because someone pushed up a chair behind me,” she said. “They knew exactly what I needed. That’s just a tiny example of all that they did for us.”
As the team brought Thomas’ blood pressure up, they called for a helicopter to bring him to St. Cloud for emergency surgery.
“It was surreal, but it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been,” Tammy said. “I was impressed with their calmness, quickness and professionalism.”
Tammy couldn’t ride with her husband in the helicopter, so it was imperative for her to see him off and say goodbye in case he didn’t make it to his destination. Their two children, ages 18 and 24, and daughter-in-law were on their way to the hospital when they were held up by a train. By then, the helicopter had arrived and was ready to take Thomas away.
“Dr. Faith said they would wait for them,” Tammy said. “He and the ED staff were so considerate of the whole situation. They waited for the kids to come and tell Thomas goodbye.”
Thomas arrived in St. Cloud and was rushed to surgery to cauterize his wounds and stop the bleeding. The procedure was successful. He was discharged the next day and returned home with his wife and children. The remainder of his recovery went smoothly.
“When a situation like that happens, if someone wasn’t quick enough or if the team didn’t work, it could have been a different story,” Tammy said. “(Without the EMS and ED staff,) Thomas would have been gone. It was the whole team working as a well-oiled machine. They are the whole package. We’re so thankful.”