ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. -- It has been a rough few weeks for the Lancaster family.
27-year-old John Lancaster thought he just had a bad cold, but it turned out he had a very serious heart condition.
“I remember having a cough and then I remember going to the hospital in Elizabeth City and then I woke up here [Sentara Heart Hospital],” said Lancaster.
He said he also didn’t remember that his wife was nine months pregnant.
“It was hard giving birth without him. It was not going the way it was supposed to go,” said Erica Lancaster.
When he couldn’t breathe on January 17, his wife encouraged him to go to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center.
At first, he said doctors didn’t know what was wrong and when his condition got worse. He was flown to Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk.
Doctors detected an undiagnosed heart condition that was affecting his lungs.
According to Sentara, they consulted with pulmonologist Dr. Jessica Buckner and they brought in heart surgeon Dr. Jonathan Philpott, who installed an ECMO device (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) to keep John’s lungs functioning because his were not functioning on their own.
For 18 days, he was in a medically-induced coma.
During all of this, physicians discovered John has an undiagnosed condition called LVNC (Left Ventricular Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy), according to Sentara.
John praised the Nightingale Team, the doctors at Sentara and their Advanced Heart Failure program, led by Dr. David Baran.
“They are rock stars,” said John. “They saved my life and it means a lot. There were a lot of tears. I'm trying my best not to cry right now.”
On January 24, his wife gave birth as John was undergoing surgery.
“After delivering her, an hour later I made my sister wheelchair me down before his procedure,” said Erica.
Kimber was born weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces; ironically, her dad works at 7-Eleven.
John said holding his daughter for the first time was “better than any medicine in the world. Pretty amazing.”
This Valentine’s Day is extra special for this young family. John’s heart is full of gratitude to the people how saved him, his wife and his newborn daughter.
“They are my rock. They keep me wanting to push to get out and get better,” said John.