13:07 PM

I knew I was actively dying

KRMC physician shares personal story

Gregory Adams, MD

Dr. Greg Adams did not have any history of heart trouble. He ate healthy and was an active runner. As a urologist at Urology Associates, Greg Adams, MD, was seeing patients as normal one day. In an instant, everything was definitely not normal.

“I suddenly felt chest pain, but I didn’t believe that what I felt was really chest pain,” says Greg.

The pain quickly increased in intensity and moved around to his back. His color turned grayish and some very astute colleagues noticed that Greg was not doing well. From the onset of the pain it took staff just minutes to rush him to the Emergency Department (ER). But in those 10 minutes, Greg felt remarkably worse. He continued to have severe chest and back pain. He felt weak all over and was quite nauseated. Greg’s condition deteriorated rapidly. “I wasn’t processing much information in the ER, but I looked up and saw Dr. Drew Kirshner, our open-heart surgeon who practices at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung, and my wife and then I thought for certain that I was dying. In fact, I knew I was actively dying,” says Greg.

Greg had a catastrophic tear of his descending aorta. The descending aorta is the part of the largest artery in the body that runs down through the chest and the abdomen. Without immediate surgical intervention, he was going to die.

In the operating room, many staff and physicians came into the hospital from their day off. Worried about Greg, they arrived to help out where they could.

“I was so touched, and still am, by the list of staff, nurses, doctors, and techs that were in my operating room,” says Greg. “They weren’t all on duty, that isn’t the usual assembly of staff.”

After a successful surgery, Greg was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). He felt like he could die at any moment, but an ICU nurse would not let that happen. She focused on Greg and made sure that he stayed present with her.

“My family experienced many struggles and tribulations, always making sure someone stayed with me, trying to figure out who would watch our young children and having someone update loved ones and friends about my condition,” says Greg. “They had many worries and concerns and I just lay on the bed in our ICU trying to stay present.”

Through his entire ordeal, Greg was quite certain that he had contact with most of the hospital services. However, one account in particular was more memorable. His father told him how he observed a housekeeper pause to pray the rosary at his son’s bedside before moving on to her assigned duties. 

"The horsepower that this institution puts into action to save a patient's life is extraordinary," he says.

A common thread in Dr. Adams story is that employees and physicians at Kalispell Regional Healthcare respond to the challenge of saving lives every day. It might be a deck collapse in Rollins with multiple injuries or the delivery of a 26-week-old premature infant, but the goal is to provide life-saving care. 

Six months after his aortic dissection, Dr. Adams was able to go on a 10-mile hike with a lot of vertical climbing. At the top of that mountain, he paused to contemplate his new life and the gratitude he feels for still being alive.

“I don’t know that I will ever know or even remember all of the people who helped us along this journey,” says Greg, “but I am thankful everyone who was there for me.”


Changing lives through philanthropy

Philanthropy gives our community the latest lifesaving equipment, improved facilities and access to highly trained medical professionals. Philanthropic support assures the tradition of excellent health care will continue for our patients and their families for future generations.

Kalispell Regional Healthcare offers many services that are unique in northwest Montana. When you contribute to the KRH Foundation, you have a unique opportunity to make a direct impact on the delivery of health care in our community. To find out more about our programs and how you can financially support our mission, go to krh.org/foundation.