By Melinda Munson
Ray Calver, 79, went to Dahl Memorial Clinic for a regularly scheduled appointment the morning of Monday, June 20. Nurse Shauna Thomas was immediately concerned by his blood pressure and called in Johanna Huff, nurse practitioner.
“My heart, the way they explained it, was doing a marathon,” Calver said. The top was pumping faster than the bottom.
Calver, who was dehydrated and had pneumonia, received fluids and medication to try and get the rhythm normalized. He signed himself out of the clinic late that afternoon, with Huff’s personal number in case of an emergency, and returned for further treatment Tuesday morning.
With little improvement to Calver’s condition, Huff recommended the 55-year Skagway resident, known to many as Grandpa Ray, be medevaced to Seattle.
Linda Calver, Ray’s wife, said Huff called all three Seattle hospitals but was turned down.
“They didn’t have any room for a high-risk patient,” Linda said.
The couple decide to continue treatment at the clinic, a facility so small it doesn’t have a pharmacy or an on-site physician. A cardiologist was available by phone for consultation.
Calver signed himself out again that evening. Calver said he wasn’t in pain and described his symptoms as “real bad indigestion” and said he could sometimes feel his heart “quiver.” Sleep was difficult.
“It didn’t do no good to complain about it,” he added.
When he returned for the third day, the team decided to shock Calver’s heart into a normal rhythm.
“They called Linda,” Calver said. You never know what’s gonna happen on a table.”
He was given drugs to sleep. The procedure was successful.
“It was pretty scary,” said Linda, life-long daycare provider and former clinic board member. “But they explained everything, they told him exactly what would happen. All around his bed there was a caretaker, one of the girls, and they all had something to do if he didn’t wake up. They knew exactly what to do.”
Calver returned to the clinic for a fourth day, and is scheduled for an EKG in Skagway. He suspects he’ll be heading to Seattle in the near future for an in-person visit with a cardiologist.
He said he is on oxygen and “a lot of meds.”
“It’s a wonder what they can do here,” he said.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t scared. I was in good hands.”
“The girls did a wonderful job,” Linda said. “They didn’t leave him alone for an instant.
When asked if he thought about moving to a town closer to a hospital, Calver didn’t hesitate.
“No, this is home,” he said.