SOMC Patient Beats the Odds

Noah Riggs (center) recently went through a complicated open-heart surgery at Southern Ohio Medical Center. Riggs is pictured above with his cardiothoracic surgeons, Dr. Alain Asher (left) and Dr. Henry Childers, senior medical director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at SOMC.

After completing a routine physical required for admission to truck driving school, Noah Riggs, 28, thought he would easily pass and begin the next chapter of his life. Much to his surprise, he failed the physical and was referred to his family physician. Dr. McGinnis examined him only to find a heart murmur and a 102-degree fever, although Noah said he felt fine.

As a result, several tests were ordered and an echocardiogram discovered two leaks in the valves in his heart (endocarditis), a congenital deformity and a severe infection. Due to deterioration in his heart, Noah needed two valves replaced. He was immediately admitted in to the Heart Care Unit at Southern Ohio Medical Center. After three weeks of intense antibiotics, an emergency surgery was needed to save Noah’s life. A five-hour heart surgery turned into a complicated 12 hour, life-threatening ordeal.

“My heart wouldn’t beat on its own,” Noah Riggs, said. “They let my mom come back to the operating room and she whispered in my ear. I remember hearing everything; she told me she loved me. I squeezed her hand to let her know I was listening.”

“The entire team and I knew that Noah was in critical condition,” Amy Fraulini, director of Heart and Vascular Services at SOMC, said. “We told the family to prepare for the worst.”

During the surgery, Dr. Childers, senior medical director of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Dr. Asher, cardiothoracic surgeon, inserted a ventricular assist device to help Noah’s heart continue to function. As a result of the machine, he needed to be transferred for specialized care. After realizing there was too much equipment to transport by helicopter, LIFE Ambulance arranged two ambulances to transport Noah, the equipment, Dr. Asher, Becky Kalb, RN, Janet Nichols, RN and his family to Columbus.

“I can’t express enough praise to the team of doctors and nurses who cared for me,” Riggs, said. “The surgeons could have given up on me but they didn’t. They wanted to see me live the rest of my life.”

“As we worked our best to help Noah, I couldn’t help but picture my daughter lying on the table,” Julie Thornsberry, staff nurse in the CVOR, said9. “I kept thinking, I want to work as hard for him as I would for my own child.”

When Dr. Asher was asked why he rode in the ambulance for two hours with equipment on his lap, he said, “it was the right thing to do.” The family, as described by Dr. Childers, was very supportive and grateful of all the staff and the dedication and effort it took to save Noah’s life.

“It’s like a football team, it’s not just up to the quarterback to win the game,” Dr. Henry Childers said. “This can’t be a one man show; Noah is the perfect example that a positive attitude, strong family support and a team effort from all the care givers can save a person’s life.”

Noah’s family members offer their sincerest gratitude to the physicians, nurses and staff at SOMC. Noah’s mother, Sheila Riggs is an employee at SOMC and she never once felt like the quality of care and treatment she and her family received was a reflection of her employment with SOMC but the excellent care that anyone would receive at SOMC.

“Noah is alive and well today,” Pam Partlow, Noah’s aunt, said. “At SOMC we were treated with respect, as though the entire family was a part of his care. The people of the Heart and Vascular Services are a well-oiled machine, they are the epitome of teamwork.”

“If you want value placed on your loved one, then you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else but SOMC,” Partlow added. “Noah is living proof.”