Police officer William “Ty” Cavanaugh, 62, of Corona, CA, was excited to travel to Scottsdale, AZ to attend the Barrett-Jackson car auction. He could not have imagined what a life-changing trip it would turn out to be.
While there, Ty awoke early one morning with a heavy, radiating pain in his chest and back. He immediately knew what was wrong as a family member had experienced similar pain in the past and Ty was well aware of the severity of what was happening.
Ty quickly grabbed his police badge and sidearm so he could secure them inside of his vehicle for safety. Once that was done, he collapsed in the hotel parking lot. Ty attempted to crawl back towards the hotel lobby while yelling for help.
The last thing Ty remembers was a group of firefighters standing over him, prepping him for transport to the hospital. He was rushed to HonorHealth Osborn Medical Center, a Level I trauma center, where initial imaging revealed that he had suffered an aortic dissection, or a tear of the main artery of the heart which supplies blood to the rest of the body. Aortic dissections are extremely serious and are often fatal.
After his life-threatening diagnosis revealed he needed more comprehensive cardiac care, Ty was airlifted to HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center, a certified chest pain and cardiac arrest center. He was immediately taken into surgery, during which he required resuscitation. Ultimately, the surgery to repair his aorta was successful. However, Ty suffered several complications post-surgery, including issues with his kidneys, an accumulation of fluid around his heart that required draining and unstable vital signs. He also experienced respiratory failure and anterior spinal syndrome, which is a stroke of the spinal canal – a type of spinal cord injury – as well as a cerebral stroke.
Ty spent over two weeks in the ICU before he was stable enough to be moved to HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, which was recommended by his doctor as the next step in his recovery journey. His diagnosis and subsequent time in the hospital had left him weak. He had difficulty standing, walking and moving in bed. He had also lost the ability to complete his normal daily activities and self-care.
Upon admission to HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Ty’s goals were to “get walking” again as well as return to his hobbies of boating and coaching youth baseball. His physician-led team of nurses and therapists devised a plan to help Ty reach his goals and return to his life.
Physical therapists focused on increasing Ty’s balance, endurance and strength through a variety of exercises focused on aerobic training and conditioning. Therapists utilized a body-weight supporting harness in which Ty was placed in to help him improve his walking. Ty’s confidence in walking grew each day until finally, during a therapy session, his physical therapist saw how well he was doing and realized he no longer needed assistance from a clinician and said, “Let him go!” This marked the first time Ty had walked without help since suffering his aortic dissection. It gave him a new sense of confidence about his recovery.
In occupational therapy, Ty and his therapists worked on learning new ways to perform self-care tasks and monitor activity tolerance in order to preserve energy. Therapists also educated him on body mechanics and ergonomics and how to utilize assistive devices to help complete transfers and personal care.
After 30 days at HonorHealth Rehabilitation Hospital, Ty made significant strides in his recovery and was excited to return home to California. He was able to walk independently and perform his self-care without assistance upon discharge.
“Being at HonorHealth was like an act of God, having a place like this to recover in,” Ty stated, expressing his appreciation for all of the staff, but specifically his care team, who got him walking again. “Without them,” he says, “I think I would have been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”