Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

I Wish The Defense Would Give It A Rest

Like many, I am following the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. And as I have stated before, the purpose of my post is not to promote or refute any particular verdict in the case. That is my opinion. That is your opinion.

Instead, I do want to focus on an issue with the testimony that is really upsetting me right now, and pushing my limits when it comes to my PTSD with my cancer survivorship issues. While some focus on what they feel is the primary reason Mr. Floyd died, it is the defense’s job, as well as the prosecutor, to prove or disprove that there were any other possible main reasons. And to do this, attorneys bring in experts, in this case especially, medical experts. Testimony must be given from issues related to pulmonology and cardiology.

As a reader of my blog, you know I am an unintentional “expert” by default in these two areas because of the many long term issues I deal with health wise from my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Enter Dr. Martin Tobin, of Loyola University Medical Center. Dr. Tobin is an acute care physician, a pulmonologist, and an academic with so many recognitions for his work and research in pulmonology and physiology. I have had my experience with another doctor similar to Dr. Tobin, so when I heard Dr. Tobin give his testimony, I knew that Dr. Tobin was the real deal. The problem for me, too real.

Dr. Tobin gave great detail, in verbage that all could understand, how the pulmonary system works. He even demonstrated various examples of the system and conditions. Watching him give his testimony, whether you have experience in the field or not, you understood what he was trying to get across. And then, he started talking about certain conditions that had occurred during the now viral video of Mr. Floyd’s death. I will not go into all the details, because they are quite graphic, and have no relation to my own particular issue.

But one term has come up, repeatedly, Hypoxia. Hypoxia in its simplest terms is “a lack of oxygen.” In medical crisis, this probably happens a lot, and as a patient, we are not usually aware of it happening, unless we read the medical reports where it would be noted, like I do. The court proceedings constantly flipped back and forth between using the terms Hypoxia and Asphyxia, which in the end, imply the same thing, the difference that Asphyxia is more or less the results of the Hypoxia. Either way, it is a lack of oxygen. And that is what is being claimed as leading to the death of Mr. Floyd.

What does that have to do with me? Following my first event of long term survivorship, my emergency double bypass for a “widow maker” heart blockage, a diagnostic test was being performed on me. It was a test that required a level of anesthesia (so that I would at least not be aware of what was happening). I was not told initially, but when I returned the following year, to have that test performed again, I was to undergo a deeper level of anesthesia than previously because, as it was explained to me, “something happened.”

Now, at the time, I had no idea what “something” was. And the copies of my paperwork did not go into detail either. I spent a long time trying to find the right person to explain to me what “something” was, and then I found her, a nurse in my care. She gained access to the testing records. She obviously did not want to get too technical with me, so she just explained what happened. I “had a problem breathing” during the test, evidently because of being so relaxed from the anesthesia, my trachea, weakened from progressive damage from radiation therapy had collapsed, restricting my ability to breath.

There was not much more discussion after that. No big deal was made of it. However, any further diagnostic procedure I had, or surgical procedure, and it involved anesthesia, I made sure that the treating physician was aware of this “incident,” even though I did not know what to call it. And that was that. My warnings were obviously heeded as I underwent many procedures without further incident, until a couple of years ago. Someone did not listen.

Now a routine procedure I had gone through at least five times over the years, my warning about my breathing was ignored. And something happened. Only now, this time, I got the actual report. And there was a word that I had seen for the first time, ever, Hypoxia. The report explained that during the procedure, I had experience Hypoxia, and that the procedure needed to be stopped, so that I could be “stabilized.” Keep in mind, after I had come to and recovered, it had been explained to me that there was an “issue” with my breathing, but it was brought under control, very casually. Later on, I would find out, that “stabilized” meant, needing to get my oxygen levels back up. I needed help with my breathing.

Spoiler alert, I am here typing this post, so obviously I survived. And now, I have a word to throw at doctors who order procedures on me requiring anesthesia. That is great. It gives me more credibility to say “I have a history of multiple Hypoxia events” as opposed to “something happens to my airway when I am relaxed from anesthesia.”

But it was during Dr. Tobin’s testimony, where he explained the effects of Hypoxia, the symptoms, and the results that occur. And this is what has jarred me. Up to this point, I have not given much thought about these incidents that I have had. With both prosecutor and defense attorney questioning Dr. Tobin, I could not avoid hearing just how serious it could have gotten for me. After all, it was the lack of oxygen that led to Mr. Floyd’s death.

The most disturbing effect of Hypoxia I discovered during the testimony, is the effect on the brain. And that the brain requires 20% of the body’s oxygen. It is also the first recipient of the oxygen. The lack of oxygen, Hypoxia, would result in less oxygen to the brain, and clearly could result in brain damage. How often have you heard the importance of a rapid response when it comes to CPR on a non-breathing, no pulse patient, having only minutes to spare when it comes to brain damage? This is what everyone refers to.

Unlike Mr. Floyd, lying face down in the street, I was in a medical facility, being treated right away for the Hypoxia. As soon as it was recognized, I was being taken care of, and spoiler alert… again, I am here to tell the story. Hearing the testimony of Dr. Tobin, I have an even greater appreciation for not only the efforts to save my life, but to help me maintain my life.

To say I was overwhelmed by Dr. Tobin’s testimony is an understatement. I know too much of my conditions to grasp just how serious they really are, and now to hear another expert repeat what I already knew.

I immediately reached out to many other long term survivors with the news, that there may just be another resource to help us, when it comes to dealing with our pulmonary issues from radiation damage and chemotherapy damage to our lungs, especially if located in the Illinois area. We can use all the help that we can get.

Then it was the turn of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker. The focus on his testimony was cardiac related as any questions relating to Hypoxia and Asphyxia, he often deferred to having limited knowledge, and to recommend pulmonologist testimony for accuracy.

The focus on cardiology was due to the fact, that Mr. Floyd had pre existing cardiac conditions. I will spare all of the details for the purpose of this post, as it is a comparison to my health that I am trying to draw, and I am not a smoker or drug user. But it is the conditions of Mr. Floyd’s two main coronary arteries that of course caught my attention.

Again, this is something that I am very familiar with. I had a double bypass of my left anterior descending artery back in 2008, almost thirteen years to the date in fact (this was what I referenced as the “widow maker”). And then I had a stent placed in the right coronary artery a couple of years ago. As the medical examiner testified, these are two of the main three arteries. I had repairs done to both. How bad were they?

In discussing Mr. Floyd’s pre existing cardiac conditions, both of his same arteries were blocked at about 75%. As the examiner stated, this was a serious enough level that could lead to a fatal event (hence, the “widow maker”), especially with any kind of stress. These are in fact serious numbers. But there was a part of me sitting there observing thinking, “hmph, 75% is nothing, mine were blocked 90%.” Nothing to brag about for sure. And to be honest, the first time, though I had symptoms, and simply ignored them, it was the second artery surgery that I had to expect some day.

You see, with my history of radiation damage, mainly scarring, doctors avoid wanting to go back in again, and again. Healing and bleeding become serious issues. So, as is the case with many of my issues, we sit back and wait. We watch the conditions get worse, until the risk of doing nothing, becomes worse than the risk of corrective surgery. Think of it as a ticking time bomb. And that is what took so long with the second artery for me, as well as other pending issues that I have.

But again, that is the benefit that I have. I have doctors watching me, able to respond, treat and manage my situations. Mr. Floyd did not have these options available to him on May 25, 2020. The defense wants the jury to believe that it was cardiac and pulmonary reasons that caused Mr. Floyd’s death instead of what Dr. Tobin and the medical examiner testified. And honestly, if I were a juror, because of my experiences with medicine, I have no doubt in the credibility of Dr. Tobin and the medical examiner and their testimonies. I lived through it.

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