Tony's Story

Tony Ryan doesn’t know why he is still alive – but he appreciates every minute he is given. Tony credits Munson Medical Center, his doctors, and his “angel nurses” for pulling him through a desperately critical illness.

Tony’s wife, Colleen, was told he was the sickest patient at Munson Medical Center as he was being kept alive by machines. She began writing his obituary because “he could not have been sicker.”   

Against all odds, Tony survived. “I shouldn’t be here,” he said. “I don’t know how to reconcile that. You just live your life.”

Tony, 61, spent 100 days at Munson Medical Center during a 30-month stretch. He has been cared for in nearly every part of the hospital. “The quality at Munson Medical Center is 10 – the best,” he said. “The care couldn’t have been better anywhere else – there weren’t any exceptions.” 

The First Miracle

Tony lived his early life with undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes. At 39, he needed a kidney transplant to survive and received a kidney from his sister. During the transplant at a downstate hospital, the donated kidney was punctured. Doctors did what they could, but the puncture would not close. On a Friday, Tony’s doctors told him if the kidney had not healed by Monday, it would have to be removed and he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life. By Monday, the kidney had healed. Tony was told if his donated kidney continued to function for the first year, he could expect it to last 11 more years. That was 22 years ago.

Vein Surgery

Tony retired in late 2014 after working for the State of Michigan for 35 years. A few months after retiring, he underwent vein stripping surgery at Munson Medical Center to improve weakness in his legs. As he was waiting to be discharged from the outpatient procedure, he suddenly began to gag. Colleen thought he was having a seizure and ran into the hallway yelling for help.

“I remember seeing this young pretty nurse run in there and she performed CPR – she brought him back. The nurses said I saved his life. It’s just that I didn’t panic. I ran for help –they saved his life.”

Open Heart Surgery

All of Tony’s systems were failing. His kidney shut down. He was on dialysis and a ventilator. It was time for a decision. “Tony told me he didn’t want to be on dialysis, but I thought he would choose life and be on dialysis rather than not live,” Colleen said. “I asked if it was possible the kidney could survive and one of the doctors said it would take a miracle. I said, ‘I believe in miracles.’” Cardiovascular Surgeon Mack Stirling, MD, agreed to do the surgery.   

Four Weeks Under

Triple bypass surgery removed the life-threatening blockage in Tony’s arteries (the fourth artery was too damaged to repair), but his condition was still perilous. He was kept sedated. He had a tracheostomy to help him breathe and a feeding tube provided nutrition. “He wasn’t doing one thing on his own,” Colleen said. “If you’d have seen his room on TV, you would have thought, ‘Oh c’mon. How can anybody be hooked up to so many things?’”

‘Zapped’ 67 Times

Tony’s heart repeatedly went into ventricular tachycardia, racing to 400 beats per minute. “They had a crash cart in his room and had it all hooked up,” Colleen said. “They’d give it three seconds and then all they had to do was push a button and it would zap him with a shock to the heart. That happened 67 times. Luckily, his heart rate went back to normal every time.”

‘You are Beautiful’

Slowly, Tony returned. He couldn’t talk or type on a keyboard, but when Colleen handed him a pen and paper, he scrawled three words for her: “You are beautiful.”

“One of the respiratory therapists saw him do that, and she just about cried,’’ Colleen said. “She said, ‘I don’t know what it is about him, but I care about him so much.’ And they were all like that. Everybody wanted him to make it – they really tried.”

Kidney Surprise

Dr. Stirling and a nurse were with Tony one day when the nurse noticed his catheter bag was filling, a clear signal that his kidney had begun functioning again. “No one was really worried about his kidney because they wanted to save his life,” Colleen said. “He’s had some problems with infections, but it started back up on its own and it keeps working.”

Life Goes On

Since his two nearly fatal heart attacks and 75-day stay, Tony has been in the hospital another 25 days. He’s had kidney infections, three strokes, and has congestive heart failure.

“When he has to go back to the hospital, I don’t really worry about it,” Colleen said. “They’re going to figure it out, change his medication, he’s going to get better, and he’s going to come home. It has happened every time. He’s had absolute top care. We have nothing but good things to say about Munson Medical Center because of the care he got and the way that I was treated. The nurses were really, really good to me, too.”

“This hospital couldn’t be more important and we’re so fortunate to live just six miles down the road,” Tony added. “It was a combination of all the different doctors, and nurses, and therapists and all of their expertise coming together.” 

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