Skip to Content

Published on August 07, 2013

Thomas Schaefer - Patient at Valley West Emergency Department

Tom had always been mindful of his health. He ate well and exercised five times a week and considered himself to be healthy, but when he started to experience abdominal and back pain he knew something wasn't right. Tom thought his symptoms were consistent with kidney stones and even called his ex-wife to let her know he would not be able to take his son the next day because he thought he would be in surgery to remove the stones.

In the early morning hours of March 14, 2013, Tom couldn't take the pain any longer. Since he is a veteran, Tom typically seeks medical care at a V.A. facility, but he was unable to drive all the way to the nearest location. He chose to take himself to the emergency department in his hometown at Valley West Community Hospital. “Valley West is very convenient and close to home. They got me into the ER right away,” Tom said. “I was surprised how fast I got into the ER. You hear about long wait times in ER’s but they got me right in and started to help me.”

Initially the nurses gave Tom medication to help control his pain, but they had little effect. The Emergency Department doctor that morning was Dr. James Fedinec. He ordered another dose of pain medication and a CT scan. With the help of the scan, Dr. Fedinec was able to see what was causing Tom’s pain. He had approximately two liters of blood in his chest cavity, an aortic aneurism, and a thoracic abdominal aneurism, otherwise known as a Triple A, an extremely life threatening situation.

The Valley West Emergency Department went to work to locate a surgery facility that could accommodate the emergency procedure that Tom’s rare condition would require. The nearest hospital that could take on his case, was Northwestern Hospital in Chicago, which meant a helicopter ride for Tom. During the surgery at Northwestern, he had 15” of his aorta replaced, his lungs collapsed and he suffered a stroke. He was in intensive care for four days and at one point lost vision in one eye, but today Tom is on the mend and has been able to return to work and his exercise routine. He gives credit to Dr. Fedinec and the Emergency Department at Valley West for diagnosing the situation and acting quickly.

“I was told most people die from this condition because it is not easily detectible. My doctors said I would have died if it weren’t for the ER doctor at Valley West,” said Tom. “I’m thankful I’m alive. It was a bad experience, but a good one at the same time. I got to meet a lot of good people at both hospitals and realized just how supportive my family is.”

Contact Us

Submit your patient experience 

or use our online form.

Footer Curve