LAFAYETTE, Minn. (KEYC) — A GoFundMe has raised over $4,000 by Tuesday evening for Lafayette Fire Chief Scott VanDeest, who was found unresponsive by his wife on June 8.
VanDeest reportedly came home after work and told his wife, Kim, that he had a headache and was going to lie down. Shortly thereafter, Kim found Scott in an unresponsive state, according to a CaringBridge post by Morgan Rustman.
VanDeest was transported by Lafayette Ambulance Services to the New Ulm Medical Center, where staff performed a CT scan of his head.
The CT scan showed VanDeest experienced a brain bleed on the left side of his brain. After medical professionals reviewed the results of the CT scan, VanDeest was immediately flown to the Hennepin County Medical Center.
After arriving at HCMC, doctors told Kim they placed a tube in Scott’s brain to help release the pressure and that he was heavily sedated and on a ventilator. In addition, doctors reportedly told her that Scott was experiencing seizures, but was given medication to prevent more from occurring.
Doctors were initially unsure of what caused the brain bleed, but told Kim that they would know more once the swelling decreased.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place, Kim was unable to stay at HCMC with Scott, but she was able to communicate with him and his medical care team via Zoom conference calls.
Doctors were able to conduct more tests on VanDeest’s brain on June 9, where they found dural arteriovenous fistulas (dAVFs), which are abnormal connections between an artery and a vein in the tough covering over the brain or spinal cord, according to the Mayo Clinic. The dAVFs were found behind VanDeest’s left eye.
To prevent further bleeding, medical professionals glued and cauterized the area.
On Wednesday, June 10, VanDeest began participating in occupational and physical therapy. His care team told his family and friends that he has been having a difficult time adjusting to his limited mobility because of the ventilator he was still on and the breathing and feeding tubes that had been put in. The care team also said the right side of VanDeest’s body appears to be strong and unaffected, but he has been weak on his left side.
Later that night, doctors told Kim that the site where the bleeding was coming from on VanDeest’s brain was showing no additional blood loss since they glued and cauterized the area. However, they did reportedly express concern regarding the large area where the blood had collected. They said they would need to perform another procedure to drain the blood and relieve the pressure and swelling.
VanDeest’s friends and families regained hope that same day when doctors and surgeons told them they have very high expectations that VanDeest will have a quick recovery.
When VanDeest went into the operating room on Thursday, June 11, doctors say they noticed the additional presence of dAVFs. For this reason, doctors believe that VanDeest was born with them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dAVFs tend to occur later in life and they’re not typically passed on genetically. A majority of dAVFs cases do not have a clear origin or explanation for what causes them, although, it’s thought that dAVFs involving large brain veins usually develop due to narrowing or blockages of one of the brain’s venous sinuses, which normally routes circulated blood from the brain back to the heart.
Doctors performed an MRI on Thursday evening in an attempt to further understand why the left side of VanDeest’s body would not move on its own power. The results of the MRI did not show any abnormalities and confirmed that VanDeest had not experienced a stroke.
VanDeest had an additional MRI on Friday on his cervical spine, which doctors explained as a precautionary measure and didn’t expect to find any abnormalities. The results of the MRI confirmed this, and there was nothing out of the ordinary with his spine, including any irregular narrowings.
Later on Friday, VanDeest’s friends and family received a piece of good news when they learned that he had been able to breathe for 30 minutes without additional assistance from a breathing tube or ventilator.
His condition went mostly unchanged until Sunday, June 14, when his family and friends were told that VanDeest was able to open both of his eyes on command – which he was previously unable to do due to the swelling around his eyes – and firmly grasp the nurse’s arm with his left hand, although he was still unable to move his left leg on command.
Also on Sunday, VanDeest’s care team had transitioned his ventilator to use pressure support, which means that he breathes on his own power for the majority of the day and uses the breathing tube as needed.
The Lafayette fire chief’s condition continued to improve on Monday, as he was slowly regaining more and more strength, including on the left side of his body, and was able to contract his left leg. He also was awake in an unsedated state for the first time since arriving at the medical center just six days earlier. Furthermore, the breathing tube that he had been utilizing was removed.
During their daily video call, Scott was able to speak to Kim, which he was unable to do before. During their conversation, he reportedly sought answers to why he was at a medical facility, what had happened and why Kim wasn’t allowed to be at the hospital with him.