Friday, March 18, 2011

Dewayne Briscoe survives fight for his life

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley City Councilman Dewayne Briscoe was unexpectedly placed on death’s doorstep three weeks ago but is on the mend. Councilman beats the odds Photo by David N. Seelig

Sun Valley City Councilman Dewayne Briscoe began a fight for his life three weeks ago that doctors said he'd lose.

"They told my kids I wasn't going to make it," he said.

Hardly any trace of Briscoe's struggle is left. He's a little sore, he said Wednesday on his way to the gym. The only reminder is a straight scar ascending all the way from his navel to the bottom of his sternum.

It all began three weeks ago following dinner at the Roundhouse on Bald Mountain. Briscoe said he was walking across the bridge to the River Run parking lot when he felt an intense pain in his abdomen.

"I thought I had been shot," he said, adding that it was the most painful feeling of his life.

Briscoe, a retired facial surgeon of 24 years, said he knew it was too serious to wait and drove the short stretch south to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

"I drove right up the sidewalk in front of the ER. If the doors had been open, I would've driven right on in," he said with a laugh.

He said Ketchum Mayor and EMT Randy Hall was on duty, as was Dr. Jan Rosenquist, who told him she thought his intestines were blocked. It turned out that his mesenteric artery, the main artery leading to his intestines, was blocked. Briscoe said that if such a blockage isn't removed in two hours, the intestines shut down and you die.

Briscoe was up against the clock, especially since St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center can't perform the surgery to remove the artery clot. Briscoe was drifting in and out of consciousness at that point but was told that the Life Flight helicopter in Boise couldn't be used for transport because of fog there. The only alternative was driving him by ambulance over the 150 miles of asphalt between Ketchum and St. Luke's in Boise.

In Boise, the doctors cut open Briscoe's stomach and had to push aside his liver and pancreas to find the artery tucked behind his organs. The blockage was removed.

"But they didn't think my intestinal tract was going to survive," he said, adding that if that happened, he would bleed out and die.

For that reason, doctors left his stomach open to wait it out. Internal bleeding developed six hours after surgery and had to be treated. Briscoe said he was unconscious during the surgery and for the five days following.

"I was open here to here," Briscoe said, running his finger down the entire length of the scar, "packed with gauze and wrapped in surgical cellophane for 36 hours."

Then, doctors realized he was going to make it and closed him up. Briscoe said doctors attribute his unlikely recovery to his health. He exercises three times a week and maintains a low cholesterol level.

He said he'll be back skiing in two weeks.

Briscoe praised the response of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and the coordination of the entire St. Luke's system for saving his life.

Trevon Milliard:

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