Thomas Hubert Tiernan
Tom was a son, a grandson, a brother, a friend, a co-worker, a US naval veteran, a husband, a father, a nephew, a cousin, a neighbor, a Little League coach, a mentor, and most importantly, a child of God.
As I know it, a little bit of history leading up to Tom contracting sepsis. Tom grew up in a large and loving family. Tom was the seventh child of 13 siblings. Tom was a healthy and vibrant young man. Tom served in the US Navy and Reserves for over 10 years, passing every health physical!
As the years progressed, life was good. A beloved family man, hard worker, always involved in his children’s activity and schooling. Stayed close with extended family on each end of the US and in between.
In the blink of an eye, at a Friday night football game is when the course of Tom’s life changed as he knew it. While proudly watching his sons play football, one of them was tackled and knocked unconscious. Right at this moment, in time, Tom gasped a deep breath and collapsed. Easy to justify as a parent-fear of a child getting hurt caused this to happen, right? But Tom quit breathing. Paramedics were on their way for our son and Tom. CPR was given by a dear friend and myself while waiting for help to arrive. Tom was taken to a local hospital where a heart murmur was detected. His heart was working overtime to pump blood.
As most men believe, they are “superman.” Tom was no different. He believed he was going to be just fine if he just made some life changes.
Two years after this event, at the age of 46, it become clear that Tom was going to need the advice of professionals. Little things that Tom enjoyed, and big things became a chore. He hurt all over, become winded and easily tired. Tom finally agreed to consult with a heart surgeon. After numerous tests, it was concluded that Tom’s heart issues had worsened. Tom’s surgeon asked Tom if he were to give him a new and improved heart, would he promise no more smoking, drinking, and continue a healthy diet and exercise routine? Tom of course agreed! I only bring this part up as these life factors could affect one’s longevity down the road. Tom desperately wanted to get back on the healthy track of life and live it to the fullest!
He underwent cardiopulmonary bypass and valve replacement surgery. Surgery went well and recovery even greater! Tom’s determination had him beating the odds and back to enjoying life! Tom’s surgeons did remind him the heart surgery would inevitably need to be done again within 9-10 years. Tom’s surgeon did give him a very vital piece of advice. Should he require any type of medical procedure or dental work, antibiotics taken prior to these procedures was a must! (Sepsis and Dental Health)
Now fast forward 10 years to 2015 at the age of 56 years. Tom’s body and stamina let him know the time was here again for another open-heart surgery. Surgery was done again and Tom’s zest for life and family had him back in the saddle again! Now the SEPSIS!
A couple of months after Tom’s surgery, he had gone to a scheduled dentist appointment for a routine cleaning. I reminded him to call his dentist for the antibiotic prescription. Tom told me that I worried too much, but assured me he could take care of everything. That evening after the procedure, Tom was complaining of hurting and sore gums. Upon looking, I could see a scratch and some blood on his gums. My response was, “Well thank goodness you took the antibiotics, so any chance of infection would be gone.”
This is the moment in time, husbands look at you like the child caught with their hand in the cookie jar! Tom’s response, “The dentist and I both agreed since I was just doing a cleaning, I would probably be fine not to take the antibiotics.” “Also didn’t want to have to leave the office until the pills kicked in, then come back. I just wanted to get the appointment done and over with.”
In the next couple of weeks to follow, subtle changes were starting to be seen in Tom’s behaviors. We lived in our town for years. Tom knew the directions to anywhere and everywhere like the back of his hand! When we would be out and about, Tom would become agitated, dazed and confused and visibly lost.
Little things, walking into a room and forgetting what or why he was there. Tom started developing mood swings and would state he was just tired, worried and stressed! I begged him to call his doctor. Tom was becoming forgetful, no matter the task at hand.
Tom one day came home from work halfway through his day. When he walked in the door, I was startled to see him. He looked dazed and when I asked him why he left work early, he did not know. He sat down and started to cry.
The day I knew with conviction that I needed to get him professional help, Tom woke up and snapped. “Tell all the kids to quit making so much noise, I am trying to sleep” (our children were married or off to college). Tom was confused when I told him this was not possible. He then got up out of bed, sat at the top of the stairway to the downstairs, stating, “I knew it, it’s those nurses bouncing on pink exercise balls making all the noise.”
At this moment my intuition was screaming louder than the previous couple of weeks. I guided Tom to the car and stated I was taking him to breakfast! He would never have agreed to go to the hospital!
The ER was less than 5 minutes away from our home. Upon arriving to the ER, Tom was disoriented. I was able to get him into the hospital waiting area. I let the triage nurse know that I felt he was having a stroke or losing his mind. After triaging and finding out a little more history. Tom was taken back and blood drawn immediately. The ER doctor confirmed what he suspected. Tom was SEPTIC. If only, he had taken his antibiotics, would he still be alive?
This was September 2015. Over the course of the next 26 days. Tom endured so much. His frail body was riddled with blood clots, many medications were given to help, but only to attack healthy organs, and his heart started to suffer again. Another heart attack. After all was said and done Tom had what the surgeon called a “patchwork heart.” Pig valve, cow valve, mesh, defibrillator. He fought the Big fight as long as he could! Tom came home but could no longer work. Visiting nurses frequented out home. Medications and IVs were administered around the clock. Tom was hooked up to a heart monitor. Our children and myself did everything to keep Tom comfortable and his spirits up! What none of us were brave enough to face is what Tom already knew. He was living on borrowed time.
Christmas was very special and fun time for our family. We all cherished this particular Christmas as of 2015, one we each will keep in all of the homemade memories tucked in our hearts forever.
One week after Christmas, Tom succumbed to another heart attack. On a bitter cold and icy night, we followed the ambulance to the big heart hospital an hour away from our home.
The calm before the storm, Tom joked with the nurses in the ER. Told everyone he was going to be just fine! The next day Tom went into cardiac arrest. The surgeon and staff did everything they possibly could to bring Tom back! Tom was on life support.
We never got to say Goodbye. That sad day on December 30, 2015, when he went to his new home in Heaven.
Tom is now without Lord. No longer in pain. An angel is watching over all of his loved ones on earth. A lifetime of memories to his family and children and friends. Tom is a legacy to his precious grandchildren that he will never get to see grow up. But will know him through their family’s eyes.
Tom as loved by many. Tom sacrificed so much for his country, for loved ones and strangers he never met. We have been blessed to have had Tom in our lives, but now forever in our hearts.
Follow your instincts
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Be an advocate for your loved ones
Written by: Donna (Tiernan) Miller
Written in Memory of: Thomas Hubert Tiernan
Sister of Thomas is: Martha Scheckel
Source: Donna Tiernan