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Thinking about Interventions

by Fred Cederholm

I didn’t realize that I was beginning to fall asleep during phone calls, had slurred speech. Had my little community of friends and neighbors not intervened, I more than likely would NOT have awakened the next morning.

I’ve been thinking about interventions. Actually I’ve been thinking about the summer that wasn’t, a second heart surgery, killer infections, my medical team, the Village of Creston, and Booster Days.

You see I really don’t have too many memories of this past summer of 2009. I was either in the hospital at Rockford,or the nursing care facility in Rochelle, Illinois. The specter of death loomed over me as I had TWO open heart surgeries in a little over a month’s time frame. I was diagnosed with a killer infection that required my team of MDs to find the correct mix of antibiotics which I would receive via intravenous infusions daily for a nine week period in Rockford and then in Rochelle - first eight times a day and then three times a day for the entire months of July and August.

I had my first surgery on June 3rd, and things “seemed” to go fairly well. I had lost forty-one pounds the week before the first surgery, my heart had returned to normal size, and I was progressing nicely on the recovery schedule – or even ahead of the schedule given me by my cardiac team. What I didn’t now was that I had a killer infection within me that was silently undoing all the good of my first surgery. I was infected between the fleshy tissue between my sin and my ribs in the area around my heart, and within the right half of my heart where my cardiac surgeon had rebuilt my mitral valve. The infection was like little “PACMEN” munching away at my heart.

I started running a fever off and on, but I thought this was no biggie as I had malaria, acquired during my trip to Guatemala in 1975. (I still don’t adjust to temperature changes well and passed off the hot flashes as that or the onset of “male menopause.”) After a little over a week of returning home I started oozing a pinkish brown goo from the top and bottom of my chest incision so I called my MD for an appointment. I had had a tube draining my incision from a kidney stone surgery incision in 1983.

What I didn’t realize was that I was beginning to fall asleep during phone calls, have slurred speech, and even began to stop speaking in complete sentences. People that had been calling to check on me noticed the deterioration of me even though I did not. On Monday July 6th several made calls to 911 on my behalf and I became the focus of an intervention. Suddenly there was an ambulance with two EMTs, a group of friends and neighbors from Creston, and almost the entire Creston Fire department to get me to go to the emergency room in Rochelle. I wasn’t very gracious and told them I was fine after dozing off a couple of times. My temperature was almost 103 and my pulse was over 120 beats per minute --- in my mind, I was fine.

Had my little community of friends and neighbors not intervened, I more than likely would NOT have awakened the next morning. That really scares me... Rochelle Hospital’s emergency room stabilized me after contacting my doctors in Rockford. It took a couple of hours in Rochelle to stabilize me before the trip to Rockford. I was kept in isolation for a couple of weeks and was receiving eight IV infusions of turbo charged antibiotics to stabilize me until my first open heart surgery could be undone and redone. I was given less than a 5% chance of survival when I arrived at Rockford and a second 5% chance of survival from the second open heart surgery.

My cardiac surgeon had to re-open my barely healed chest scar and go back into my heart removing the infected tissue and replacing my re-built valve with a titanium one. He then had to trim off any infected tissue on both sides of my chest incision to get a re-closure. I shudder to TH*NK about all that was done to save my life – it truly causes me to thank GOD and all the people who prayed for me throughout this summer of challenges.

I’m now doing surprisingly well (all things considered), but I still get very tired. I will be using a four wheeled walker for a while. I’m so glad to be back writing my weekly column and I’m really looking forward to Creston Booster Days to have a chance to thank all those locals who intervened and saved my life.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on September 14, 2009.