Tony Dunn’s heart had stopped beating for nearly an hour.
Doctors and nurses were doing all they could to save him. Nothing was working. After 55 minutes of a code blue team working frantically to save him, a physician prepared to pronounce him dead.
Suddenly, there was a pulse. Dunn was inexplicably back, having suffered no brain damage in the process. Doctors called the 54-year-old Cleveland native “the miracle man.”
After spending 21 days in ICU after the incident, Dunn and his family said they are grateful to God and the medical team assigned to him that did not give up. Each day he is gaining his strength back after surviving the greatest scare of his life. According to Dunn, it all started when he and his wife were vacationing in August to play golf in Florida. Dunn said he thought he pulled a muscle in his rib, but the pain did not go away.
“A couple of weeks later I went to the doctor,” Dunn explained. “I wanted to see if I had cracked something. When he did an ultrasound he saw a mass on my pancreas. They did an endoscope and didn’t find any cancer cells but the mass had to come out. They call it a ‘Whipple procedure.’ It was a major surgery because there were four organs they ended up cutting and reconnecting to get the mass out.”
After surgery, Dunn was in recovery for 10 days — doing quite well, he said. What no one knew, however, is that Dunn was allergic to a blood thinner called heparin, which was being administered. He said, “My platelets began to drop and, as a result of that, I began to get blood clots in my lungs. I developed what they call a ‘butterfly clot’ across both lungs.”
The day he was set to be released, already dressed and ready to go home, Dunn started having serious trouble breathing. The butterfly clot would not let any blood pass through the lungs to his heart. It all started to back up, according to Dunn. The next thing he knew, his heart stopped and a code blue was in force. Dunn was now fighting for his life.
“My wife thought I was gone,” he admitted. “I was told that doctors went through three different crash carts of medicines.”
Dunn’s wife, Beverly, a nurse at SkyRidge Medical Center, was by his side. She said it was “very scary” as she watched doctors pounding on his chest and using a defibrillator to shock his heart over and over while she prayed desperately for a miracle. Ten minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes — they continued efforts to revive Dunn to no avail. It seemed hopeless but they did not give up. Neither did Dunn’s wife and son, Justin, now in a waiting room, hoping and praying for his survival. Beverly said they let her go back to see her husband during the middle of the code and talk to him.
“I thought it would be the last time I got to talk to him or see him,” she admitted.
After 55 long minutes — when doctors were just about to call it, a pulse suddenly appeared. He was back. Dunn had narrowly escaped death. Beverly admitted she was not expecting any good news when doctors came out to face her. Instead, they told her he was back after being clinically dead for 55 minutes. Amazingly, there are no signs of any brain damage due to a lack of oxygen to his brain.
After five to 10 minutes of not breathing, experts say a person is likely to develop serious and possibly irreversible brain damage. At 10 minutes many brain cells die and patients are unlikely to recover. At 15 minutes, recovery is considered virtually impossible. Dunn had more than beaten the odds — his case entered the realm of the seemingly impossible.
“They dubbed me ‘Miracle Man,’” Dunn said. “I asked my doctor if he could explain this. He said it had to be God. That’s why I wanted to share my story. This was a God thing. I want to make sure that God gets the glory for this. It inspired so many health workers down there (at Memorial). They were amazed at the fact that I came out of it. They were amazed at the fact that I don’t appear to have any brain damage. Everything was totally stacked against us, but all at once things turned and went the other way.”
Once he was in ICU, Dunn said his son, Justin, told him he begged God to please put his dad’s spirit back in him, and was grateful to see his father alive and well again. Dunn admits his approach to life has changed considerably after his near-death experience.
“Over the past couple of years I’ve been in a spiritual trial of sorts,” he said. “I really needed some clarity. God has given me what I needed. It has been more than I could possibly have expected. I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for the watch care and power of God. Also, I cannot say enough good things about Memorial and the nurses on the fifth floor who first handled my code blue. The best thing I could say about Memorial is — that was a place where my faith was safe. I could believe in God and they would support me. They were an excellent group of individuals.”
J. Brooke Kelly, a certified medical-surgical registered nurse at Memorial, who holds a bachelor of science in nursing, passed on these comments from the nurses who cared for Dunn.
“Mr. Dunn is a true miracle, and it was a blessing to be part of his story. I remember reading his CT scan and thinking about it often when I am having a bad day. It gives me hope for all my patients. It reminds me why I do my job. There was a presence of calmness about Mr. Dunn in a situation where most patients are very anxious. What an amazing story he and his wife can share!”
Dunn, who works at Duracell as a process quality leader, has already experienced a special blessing from his saved life. On Oct. 19, he and his wife attended the Nashville wedding of their daughter, Tara, where he gave her away in marriage — something he and his wife of 20 years said they are especially thankful for.
His sister, Deloris, said, “Our family went through the hardest time in our lives hoping and praying for Tony. Now that our prayers were answered we feel blessed that we’re all here, in our 50s, and still together with our parents. I feel like it was a miracle.”