DeKalb Fire Captain Eric Jackson felt a sudden wave of pain in his side. The 51-year-old, from years on the job, knew that sometimes pain can come and go – a sudden nerve pinch, maybe a pulled muscle. But what he didn’t know is that his suffering would lead to an intense, scary and frustrating journey to three different medical facilities. And he had no idea it would culminate with a Kaiser Permanente urgent care physician solving the mystery – and saving his life.
At the moment, however, Eric merely decided to track how much he was hurting. “I thought, ‘Let’s see if it will go away as fast as it came on.’”
The clock started at 5:40 p.m. Jan. 19. He watched from his swivel chair at the firehouse.
The discomfort got much worse.
His boss, Battalion Chief James Swann, personally drove him to a nearby hospital – where he found he was having difficulty breathing – and “the pain ramped up.” But a CT scan failed to show anything troubling, and after ruling out kidney stones, the hospital sent Eric home with pain medication.
DeKalb Fire Captain Eric Jackson
The next day, after dropping his son off at church, Eric started hurting again – so badly that he told his wife that he needed to go to a hospital immediately. This time, they sped to a hospital near their home. More scans, with the addition of a chest x-ray. This time, the staff found he had a slight fever – around 101 degrees – and surmised he might have pneumonia. This time, he received a prescription for the infection, along with more pain meds, and was sent home.
Eric and his wife decided to go to Southwood Comprehensive Medical Center to pick up the prescriptions. As they stepped in the pharmacy, Eric went down on one knee, doubled over in pain. Kevin Colson, a pharmacy tech on duty, immediately called an in-house emergency, and members of the Advanced Care Center (ACC) immediately brought him in.
– DeKalb Fire Captain Eric Jackson
Jennifer Marrast Host, M.D. – trained in emergency medicine – had just come on duty. Like others, she too listened to the symptoms; she too ordered a CT scan. But she was armed with several tools the other hospitals didn’t have: a lifetime of Eric’s medical records (He had been a Kaiser Permanente baby in California decades ago); shared electronic records with one of the hospitals he had seen; and her own medical intuition. She had a theory of what might be happening. Another CT scan – this time, with contrast – confirmed it. “She put two and two together, and solved what was wrong with me,” he said.
Eric had pulmonary embolisms (PE)– blood clots – in both lungs that threatened to kill him. Although treatable within hours if discovered, PEs are sometimes lethal. “I know it’s life threatening,” Eric said. “I can’t begin to express how thankful that it was caught when it was. I know plenty of situations where it has taken someone right out where they stood.”
Southwood Comprehensive Medical Center
Now, he’s back to work and doing fine. He is seen regularly by Kaiser Permanente pulmonologist Matthew Prout, M.D.
“I’ve never had any other health care,” he said. “But I never knew that being with Kaiser Permanente would have such a profound effect on me, my wife and my two boys.”
Eric mentioned that after he was stabilized at Kaiser Permanente, he asked if he could go to the bathroom. In the quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of the ACC, he kneeled again – this time not in pain, but in gratefulness.
“I thanked God for my life. And I thanked him for putting this staff in my path,” he said, “so they could work through Him and save me.”
– DeKalb Fire Captain Eric Jackson