H.B. man brought back to life after multiple heart attacks

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In the dream, the man is at an airport and the plane is ready for takeoff. The man rushes frantically, but can’t find the right door. Eventually the plane takes off without him.

This was the dream, or vision, Sean Porter of Huntington Beach had as he lingered between life and death at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.

“I’m not sure what it meant,” Porter said.

His wife, Candace Porter, thinks it meant it wasn’t her husband’s time.

“I believe in that stuff,” she said.

Porter doesn’t know if the dream came when doctors were working to revive him during one of the multiple times he went into cardiac arrest or arrhythmia. It may have been during the time that he lay in a coma. Or during surgery.

Porter and his family consider it a Christmas miracle that he is able to tell the story.

For many, 2016 seemed full of worldwide terrorist attacks, police shootings and celebrity deaths. But for this Huntington Beach family, holiday wishes were granted and a year that teetered on the precipice of tragedy ended, instead, with hope.

Porter, 41, could easily be dead.

But after suffering and surviving a series of heart attacks, major surgery, a helicopter transfer to UC San Diego’s Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center and three harrowing weeks in the hospital, he was able to return home Dec. 21 for Christmas.

Candace Porter vividly remembers being at at her husband’s side when the worst of the cardiac arrests struck. She was sitting bedside when suddenly alarms and monitors went off, and her world exploded.

Although she was ushered out of his room, she said she could hear the doctors desperately working to bring Sean back.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to witness,” she said. “They were saying, ‘He doesn’t have a pulse.’ It was going through my mind, ‘They have to save him. They have to save him.’

“It’s like they say, everything flashes before you. I was thinking, ‘I can’t lose him. He’s my whole life.’”

Only days earlier, Porter had seemed the picture of health, coaching his kids’ youth sports team, eating a sensible diet. He didn’t smoke or drink to excess.

But inside his chest, Porter’s heart was being choked nearly to death.

“I haven’t seen a heart this bad at a young age when the traditional bad actors aren’t there,” said Dr. Subbarao Myla, the medical director of the cardiac catheter laboratories at Hoag.

The “bad actors,” Myla added, are diabetes, smoking or other bad habits.

“The genetic lottery rolled the dice,” Myla said.

Just a few days before visiting Myla, Porter sat for a family portrait to send to friends and family for Christmas. He had coached his daughter, Whitney, 12, through the softball season.

Then Porter felt shortness of breath, tightness in his chest and a sore shoulder, which he thought might have been the result of an old back injury.

Myla conducted an angiogram, or X-ray of the heart.

“I was quite shocked,” Myla said. “All of his arteries were blocked.”

Porter was rushed to surgery.

“They said they’d throw everything and the kitchen sink because he was so ill,” Candace Porter said.

Myla and the team at Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart and Vascular Institute, including cardiac surgeons Colin Joyo and Aidan A. Raney, used a heart pump, stents and bypass surgery.

When Joyo opened Porter’s chest for surgery, he found significant scarring on the heart, indicating Porter may have suffered several so-called silent heart attacks that blocked blood to the heart without obvious or recognized symptoms.

The National Academy of Sciences in 2015 reported that every year in the U.S., approximately 395,000 cases of cardiac arrest occur outside of a hospital, in which less than 6 percent survive.

Approximately 200,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in hospitals, and 24 percent of those patients survive.

Even so, Porter’s struggle was a close call.

Porter was sent to San Diego, where he was prepared for a possible heart transplant or mechanical heart.

However, his heart improved; the worst of the danger was over. A defibrillator was implanted to help control his heart rate, and he was sent home. The continuing problem is a raspy voice from a tube that was inserted into his trachea in the hospital to provide oxygen.

Myla said when he saw Porter after his release, Porter asked if he could have pizza and a hamburger once a month.

The doctor gave the go-ahead.

This was likely a big relief to Cole Porter, 11, Sean Porter’s son, who has been adhering to his dad’s strict dietary regimen in a show of solidarity.

Porter said he has counted his blessings since the ordeal.

“I’ve been lucky a couple,” Porter says. “I might be running out of luck. I hope not.”

To view the original Orange County Register article, please click here.