Special to Iredell Free News
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, 64-year-old Eddie Johnson’s life took an unexpected and frightening turn. His familiar morning routine quickly progressed to the sudden chaos of an ambulance racing to the hospital.
“You don’t realize how something like this could happen. One day I was fine, and then the next day I was not. They only gave me a 10 percent chance to make it,” said Johnson.
In October of 2022, Johnson followed his regular routine and headed to work.
“I had just arrived at work and started to walk inside, but I kept getting out of breath and didn’t have any energy,” he said.
Being a typically healthy person and having no previous health scares, Johnson knew what he was feeling was abnormal.
“I finally got into the plant, and I went back to my workplace and sat down, but I could hardly move. I decided I needed to go home. I only made it back to the break room before I had to stop. Luckily, my brother works at the same place, and I asked him to drive me to the hospital because I knew something was very wrong,” said Johnson.
Once Johnson got back out to the car with his brother, he experienced extreme shortness of breath and made the decision to call 9-1-1. Johnson was transported to Iredell Memorial Hospital.
“Luckily, Dr. Martin was on call, and he told me everything they were going to do and try. Then I don’t remember much after that. I blacked out and was in a coma for about three days,” said Johnson.
‘I knew he was in trouble’
“When they consulted me over the phone, it sounded like Eddie was pretty sick and in a lot of respiratory distress. There were a lot of people in the room and a lot of commotion going on. Immediately walking in the door, I knew he was in trouble,” said Martin.
A chest X-ray revealed that Johnson had fluid in his lungs and an enlarged heart.
“The concern was that he was suffering from acute congestive heart failure. We had to make a very quick decision and knew right away that he needed to be intubated because he wasn’t going to be able to keep up on his own. His circumstances were very critical,” said Martin.
Johnson was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart muscle disease that causes the heart chambers to thin and stretch, growing larger. Untreated, dilated cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure.
According to Martin, if Johnson had waited a couple more hours to seek medical care, he may not have survived.
“We used some specialized medications to unload the heart. But because of Eddie’s circumstances, he was transferred to UNC Medical Center,” said Martin.
The next time Martin saw Johnson in his office at Statesville Cardiovascular Clinic, he said Johnson looked like a completely different person.
“We did some things to optimize his medications. The sequence of events for him was fairly complicated because we take time to see how much heart function recovers. When people have a weakened heart, they can be at long-term risk for sudden cardiac death. So we think about implantable cardiac defibrillators for folks to help lower the chance of that happening. Eddie ultimately met the criteria for that, and we were able to get that in for him,” said Martin.
“Recovery has been long. I am just recently able to get back to work. Iredell Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation has helped me with recovery. It is a great program and has helped me get back
into shape,” said Johnson.
Looking back on his experience, Johnson is grateful for the care he received and says, “I just want to thank everybody that was involved in my care. I had great doctors, and everybody did wonderfully in keeping my family informed as to what was happening. I definitely look at life differently now. There’s nothing else I can say other than they saved my life.”
Dr. Bradley Martin sees patients in Statesville, Mooresville, and Taylorsville. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Martin, call 704-873-1189.
About Iredell Health Foundation
The Iredell Health Foundation is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization responsible for philanthropy for Iredell Health System. It supports the system’s programs and services through donor-centered fundraising. The Foundation focuses on raising community awareness of specific programs that need funding and provides individuals and organizations hoping to make a difference and leave a legacy the opportunity to support local healthcare needs of their choice. To learn more, or to make a donation, visit www.iredellhealthfoundation.org or call 704-878-7669.