A Dedicated ER Doctor Helped a Soon-To-Be Grad Get the Care He Needed
In early 2018, 17-year-old Austin Raymond’s senior year of high school was in full swing. He was finishing up classes, active with multiple athletic teams, and making plans to head to college to study veterinary medicine.
One week in early February, though, Raymond started feeling chest pains off and on. On February 9, getting ready to play in his high school hockey game, Austin’s pain returned and became more severe. A teammate informed his parents, Pat and Tina, and they immediately took him to MidMichigan Medical Center – Gladwin.
Once at the ER, Raymond was immediately hooked up to an EKG machine for observation. “At first I was kind of nervous,” the now 18-year-old Raymond says, “but I knew I was in safe hands. The doctor knew what he was doing.”
When Emergency Medicine Specialist Hernan Maldonado, M.D., came into the room to check on Raymond, he quickly noticed that something was amiss on the EKG reading. He pointed it out to Raymond and his parents – an odd little spike appearing before the big spike on the graph.
The shape of the spikes was characteristic of a rare cardiac disorder called Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome. In patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White, the electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat regularly are slightly out of sync, which can cause palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath, and in rare cases can lead to cardiac arrest.
It’s likely that Raymond was born with Wolff-Parkinson-White, which his mother, Tina, found surprising. Raymond and his twin sister, Shelby were born premature, and had spent the first couple months of life connected to a heart monitor. However, the telltale abnormalities in an EKG reading can be difficult to see, and it takes a keen eye like Dr. Maldonado’s to pick up on it. “It’s great that a doctor in our little town of Gladwin was able to detect this,” says Tina.
Following the diagnosis, Dr. Maldonado ordered more tests for Raymond and made arrangements to have him transferred to a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Michigan that very night. Dr. Maldonado told Raymond’s parents that if they had gone home and then scheduled an appointment, it could have taken as much as a couple months to get in for a visit. But he knew that it would be best for Raymond to see a specialist right away, and MidMichigan Health’s affiliation with the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) allowed him to set up a special Friday night appointment for Raymond.
During the tests and throughout the wait for Raymond’s transfer, Dr. Maldonado remained with Raymond and his parents and provided a comforting presence. Although his shift had already ended earlier in the evening, Dr. Maldonado insisted on staying to keep an eye on Raymond, making sure he was alright, and to talk to his parents and help them understand everything that was going on.
“He said, ‘I’m not leaving you, we’re going to figure this out, I’m going to stay,’” Raymond’s mother recalls, adding that despite the frightening situation, it was reassuring to have the doctor stay with them the whole time.
Raymond’s parents say that you could see and hear that Dr. Maldonado was a caring, compassionate doctor. Part of that, Raymond’s mother believes, is that he was very relatable.
“As parents of a 17-year-old having heart problems, when you don’t really know what’s going on,” she says, “it’s a very unsettling experience.” But Dr. Maldonado spoke with them in a comforting and empathetic way, saying “I have two boys, so I understand where you’re coming from.” His kind, knowledgeable nature helped put Raymond and his parents more at ease as they prepared for his next steps.
Fortunately, Raymond’s condition was determined to be not immediately dangerous, and he was back to school and hockey practice the next Monday. However, he did have a repeat of the chest pains that week, and his heart rate elevated to 130 beats per minute at one point. He was taken back to the emergency room to get things settled back down and was very happy to have Dr. Maldonado as his care provider again for that visit.
Raymond was determined to be eligible for a minor surgical treatment for Wolff-Parkinson’s-White, called an ablation. Raymond finished his last high school hockey game on Feb. 27, and on Feb. 28 he was headed back down to Ann Arbor for final testing at UMHS. On March 1 he had the procedure, where surgeons ran a catheter from his femoral artery to his heart and applied radiofrequency energy to correct the abnormal heart tissue. It went smoothly, and he was back at school and track practice the following Monday.
A month after the procedure, Raymond had a follow-up EKG which showed that his heart is now beating like normal. He will have another exam in a year’s time, and if everything looks good, he will be given the all-clear. Raymond says he is ‘already feeling better - he has more energy and is glad to not be worrying about having a problem anymore.
Today, Raymond is a strong 18-year-old who just celebrated his graduation from Gladwin High School. He plays soccer with a recreational league and is working on his plans for the summer and for college in the fall. Only now, his career goals have changed. After completing his transfer degree at MidMichigan Community College, Raymond wants to attend Grand Valley State University and get a degree in the health care profession, as a nurse anesthetist.
Raymond says the top-quality care he received from Dr. Maldonado and the ER staff at MidMichigan played a big part in his decision to pursue a career in healthcare. “The doctors were really nice and caring, and I knew this was definitely the field I wanted to go into,” he explains. He is especially grateful to Dr. Maldonado for his help during his cardiac experience – both for the fast diagnosis and for the devoted care during his time at the hospital. “I just want to thank him for being there for me,” Raymond says. “It changed my life.”
If you or someone you love is experiencing warning signs of a heart attack, Don’t Wait and Don’t Drive. Dial 911 or your local ambulance service. Those interested in more information about MidMichigan’s specialized programs in heart and vascular care, visit http://www.midmichigan.org/heart.