Local Lifeline: A Life Saved in Lane County

September 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm

During the Thanksgiving weekend of 2000, Ed St. Clair was suffering with severe back and abdominal pain.

He needed immediate medical assistance. Knowing it would be a long wait for an ambulance in the rural area where they lived, his wife Adrienne drove him to the fire station in South Eugene. From there, he was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Ed St. ClairThe rapidly responding medical team diagnosed Ed’s condition as an aortic aneurysm on the verge of rupture – a life-threatening health crisis. The bulging aneurysm was detected on the largest blood vessel in the human body. This artery delivers blood from the heart directly to the vital organs. If it bursts, the odds of survival are only 6 percent. Half of those rare survivors become paralyzed permanently as a result of nerve damage from the lack of oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body.

Ed was stabilized to prepare for the surgery to repair his damaged aorta. Vascular specialist Dr. David DeHass, MD and thoracic surgeon Dr. David Duke, MD were out of town for the holiday but were called back to perform the delicate operation. As he waited for the doctors to return to Eugene, the situation became more critical as the chronic inflammation from Ed’s rheumatoid arthritis allowed blood to leak from the aneurism in his chest.

After a terrifying and seemingly endless 24 hours, the operation began in hopes that Ed’s life could be saved. During the 9-hour procedure, the expert surgical team grafted a tube of dacron polyester fabric into the damaged section of Ed’s aorta. The procedure successfully repaired the blood vessel and allowed Ed’s circulatory system to begin recovering.

St. Clair Family

Within the span of one day, Ed received 65 units of A positive blood. Thanks to the generous donors at Lane Memorial Blood Bank (now Lane Bloodworks), that blood was available right here in our community.

“Without the blood, there would have been no point in doing the surgery,” Ed said. “Blood was an essential component of the surgery.” Today Ed suffers no ill-effects from the ordeal, and has continued to donate blood whenever possible. He jokes, “I had to miss my appointment to donate blood at Lane Memorial Blood Bank the Monday after the surgery, though.”