HARTVILLE − Today, Jon Misner would be just as happy eating at Red Lobster.
More on that later.
The husband, father and grandfather doesn’t necessarily need a turkey dinner – not that he won’t enjoy it. In fact, he’s hand-making noodles for the 18 people scheduled to celebrate Thanksgiving in his home.
Misner’s actually been living in a state of thanksgiving for some months now, after nearly dying from a severe heart complications that required several surgeries and months in cardiothoracic intensive care at the University Hospital Cleveland Medical Center.
Misner has suffered from a weak heart for about 12 years. It’s a condition that always had been mitigated by medication.
In mid-April, he went to see the doctor for a precautionary check-up.
“I went in for a heart catheter check because I was starting to get a little more tired than normal,” he explained. From that point on, I didn’t remember much.
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Misner’s wife, Jo Ann, said he was in a local hospital for tests for about a week, followed by surgery to perform several bypasses and to replace his mitral valve.
The mitral valve keeps the blood moving in one direction from one heart chamber to another. In Misner’s case, the valve was so weak, it caused the blood to travel in the wrong direction.
But the surgery resulted in some complications.
Dr. Marc Pelletier, cardiac surgeon and director of the Heart Surgery Center at University Hospital’s Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, said the local hospital reached out to UH.
“He really wasn’t doing well; he struggled for a couple of days,” he said. “He wasn’t really stable, so, that surgical team reached out to us, and we’re glad they did. They reached out to us to see if we could maybe help, or maybe we had different ideas on how we could treat it.We try to accept all these patients, so we just say ‘Yes.’ We never know exactly what patients are going to be like until they actually get to us — but we have some idea.”
Misner was flown by medical helicopter from Canton to Cleveland.
Pelletier said that because Misner’s chest could not be closed post-surgery, he was actively bleeding, requiring at least four units of blood.
He underwent surgery at 6 am the next morning.
“When we took him to the operating room, we found that the bypasses were OK, but the valve wasn’t functioning well; it had become detached somehow, so we had to redo the entire valve replacement,” Pelletier explained.
Throughout the spring and summer, Misner underwent a number of other procedures at UH, including reconstruction of the atrial septum, which divides the upper chambers of the heart. Surgeons also installed a mechanical heart pump, which was later removed; a tracheostomy, several bronchoscopies, and a procedure to remove fluid that accumulated around his lungs which, at the time, posed more of a threat than his heart.
Misner was also placed in a medically induced coma and sustained by a feeding tube.
Pelletier said Misner was too sick to be considered for a heart transplant.
Asked to measure the seriousness of Misner’s illness at the time, he answered frankly.
“We get patients from a lot of different places in the state, even out of state,” he said. “People trust us to take care of these really, really sick patients, and when patients get to where Jon was at, most of them just aren’t able to survive.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, deaths and disability from cardiovascular disease have been steadily rising for 30 years.
The agency also reports that in 2019, the effects of heart disease and stroke were responsible for one-third of all deaths worldwide.
Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.
Pelletier said doctors were honest with the family about Misner’s condition, at one point, even broaching palliative care, but added that their unyielding love and support became a crucial factor in his recovery.
“Everyone doesn’t have that,” Pelletier said.
Misner’s support system included his wife, JoAnn, his high school sweetheart of 45 years; their four children, Jennifer, Jon Jr., Jill and Joe, his younger sisters Joan and Julie, and a wider circle of friends and well-wishers.
“Everybody made it a point that somebody (from the family) was going to be there every day,” Jo Ann Misner said.
In addition to daily visits, the family displays a large poster board of family photos in Misner’s room.
Pelletier said it served as a “constant, daily reminder.”
“Not just to Jon, but to the staff, that this isn’t just a body or an individual who’s just barely hanging on, but this is a man who’s got a wife and a lot of things to live for,” he said. “They were never willing to give up on him. Not many of our patients have that kind of strong, robust family, and I think that’s what really got him through all this.”
Misner calls his family his “A Team.”
“They’re the ones that kept me going as far as goals were concerned,” he said.
One of those goals, Misner said, was seeing his seven grandchildren again, including his newest granddaughter.
“I was really worried about youngest, who’s 8 months old,” he said. “When I went into hospital, she was just a couple of weeks old. It was a bad thing for me because I was worried about them; she is my youngest son’s first child. I really wanted to see her.”
Jo Ann Misner admits it wasn’t easy.
“It was tough; I had a couple of breakdowns,” she said. “But we had so many people praying. People were so wonderful to bring things. It was just all a ‘God thing.’ He is a miracle. We still thank God every day.”
The couple said so many people expressed concern that one of their daughters created a daily update on Facebook to keep them informed.
“She even got yelled at a few times when she didn’t give an update,” Jon Misner said with a laugh.
Misner’s son-in-law Adrian Chandler promised him that when he came home, he would treat him to Red Lobster. It soon became a running joke among the family and the staff.
“It sounded delicious. I knew fish was supposed to be good for me. You don’t know how many people came into my room, asking ‘What’s with the Red Lobster?'” he laughed. “That was another goal that kept me going.”
‘We’re always together’
Chandler kept his word, and Misner sent Pelletier a photo of the two of them at dinner.
“I always call him ‘Doctor P,'” Misner said. “He replied right back. He’s just a wonderful man. He was such a fantastic doctor. He even told his staff that if I ever walked out of this place, he’d take them all to dinner. I couldn’t let them down The staff he had was absolutely incredible.”
Pelletier said Misner’s recovery was a boost to the staff, especially the ICU nurses.
“Because you can imagine a poor nurse who’s got to come in and look after a guy like Jon day after day, and feel he’s not making progress,” Pelletier said. “Sometimes, these nurses feel like, ‘Are we doing the right thing for this patient? Are we torturing him? So think about lying in that room every day, 24 hours a day. For the nurses, I think it was emotionally hard to look after him at first because there was so little progress being made.”
Upon his release from UH on July 23, Misner spent an additional 17 days at Alliance Community Hospital’s Rehabilitation Center, where he underwent kidney disease three days a week.
He has foot-drop, and has lost sight in his left eye, with diminished capacity in his right.
He relies on a walker when needed.
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“Since then, I am no longer on dialysis,” he said. “I’ve been free of that for a few months. My numbers are getting better and better. Hopefully, some of this medication I’m on, I can get off of it.”
Pelletier said Misner’s prognosis is good.
“His heart function has not quite returned to normal but it’s pretty good, and the valve is working,” he said. “He’s past the point of infection being a major concern. He’s now walking and enjoying life, and is able to eat, which he wasn’t able to do for a long time.”
A lifelong resident of Hartville, Misner said he’s blessed that all of his family live just two or three miles away.
“We’re a very close family and always together,” he said.
Thanks to a medical miracle and a family’s refusal to give up, Thanksgiving Day will be no different.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @CGoshayREP.
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP