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Saving Jim Santi

A Daughter Says Thanks to the Team Who
Brought Her Dad Back.

Audra Hellyer, of Quakertown, received the shocking call on April 20. Her father, Jim Santi, had collapsed and her mother, Claudia, was following the ambulance to Lansdale Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Jim, 70, a Commissioner on the Board of Upper Gwynedd Township, doesn’t recall the events that unfolded that day, but his grateful family does.

Jim Santi with granddaughters Maya and
Addison Hellyer

“Dad was coming in and out of consciousness, complaining that his belly and back hurt,” Audra recalls. Steven A. Johnson, DO and the Lansdale Hospital Emergency team were waiting for him. “We learned that dad was losing blood quickly,” Audra says.

Dr. Johnson notes, “Upon examination, I could feel a large pulsing within Mr. Santi’s abdomen, and ordered an ultrasound to confirm that he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). AAAs are bulges in the main blood vessel that extend from the heart through the abdomen. If the force of the blood against the stretched wall of the vessel becomes too great, it bursts, causing severe internal bleeding, shock and even death. Mr. Santi was losing blood quickly and we needed to get him stabilized.”

Immediately, Dr. Johnson contacted Theodore Sullivan, Jr., MD, director, The Blank Vascular Center at Abington Memorial Hospital. Meanwhile, the medical and nursing teams arranged for Jim to be flown to Abington for emergency surgery.

“If it wasn’t for Lansdale and
Abington Memorial Hospitals,
dad wouldn’t be here now.
He owes his life to phenomenal
care.” – Audra Hellyer

While the family waited for the helicopter, Jim was prepared for the operation, receiving three pints of blood so that no extra time would be needed at Abington when he arrived.

“The Lansdale emergency doctors and nurses were so wonderful,” Audra says. “I saw how worried Dr. Johnson was. But he had my father in the helicopter within 40 minutes of our arrival at Lansdale Hospital.”

Dr. Sullivan met the family at Abington, deftly explaining the procedure before whisking Jim into surgery.

The vascular surgeon explains, “When you’re dealing with a ruptured abdominal aneurysm, minutes count. I spoke with Dr. Johnson at Lansdale Hospital and we agreed that the best call was to fly Mr. Santi to Abington as soon as he was stabilized.

“In the meantime, we mobilized our troops, calling the AAA alert on our overhead paging system and summoning all attending vascular surgeons and residents, nurses, anesthesiologists, and notifying the blood bank,” Dr. Sullivan says. “It’s a challenging and technically difficult surgery that requires a coordinated effort, from the beginning in the Emergency Department through critical care management post-operatively.”

Audra continues, “Dad was in the OR within 10 minutes of our reaching Abington. The survival rate for this kind of thing is so low, and everyone’s fast response was tremendous.” Post-surgery, Dr. Sullivan and the vascular team sedated Jim for comfort and rest while he was on a ventilator. He spent a week and a half in the ICU. Once he recovered, he was transferred back to Lansdale Hospital’s Acute Rehabilitation Unit to gain additional strength.

Audra, the mother of two girls ages 5 and 2, fights back tears as she thinks of what could have been. “He’s not only our father, but he’s a good “Pop Pop,” too. “If it wasn’t for Lansdale and Abington Memorial Hospitals, dad wouldn’t be here now. He owes his life to phenomenal care.”

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