Man's heart condition proving to be a medical mystery
The woman heading up Indianapolis' bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl is facing a medical mystery at home.
Allison Melangton and her husband, Tom, are facing a challenge that's threatening his life and impacting her own health, as well.
We are used to seeing Allison, Indy's public Super Woman, largely credited for the city's Super Bowl success in 2012. But privately, she's a wife and mother who recently realized the likelihood of her becoming a widow was very real and very close.
"It was horrific, as a spouse, to watch," she said.
She traces the beginning back to January and a late-night stop at a Carmel gas station with her husband of 28 years, Tom. He mentioned he didn't feel well and uncharacteristically took notice of the music playing at the pump.
"He said, 'It's weird, because it's really loud in my head, but it's not that loud in the speakers'," she said.
"It was called, 'God Is Near,' is the name of the song, and it really made me feel, not God was near, but you know, but God was near, like Heaven being near and it really kind of gave me some chills," Tom said.
"I felt like, 'There is something going on here,' because of the way this has unfolded. He doesn't have a symptom, the song is sticking in his head, he doesn't feel good, so let's be safe," Allison said.
"I just didn't want to go to bed. I felt like I just wasn't going to wake up," Tom said.
It was after midnight and the couple went to the hospital. Tom's heart test results were largely normal.
"Then, just halfway through the night, I had a cardiac arrest in the Carmel Heart Hospital," he said.
"The next thing I know, the lights are on, they are paging 'Code Red' to the room that we were in and all the medical staff came rushing in, kind of grabbed me off the bed, put me on the floor and then started using paddles on him," Allison said.
"He was very fortunate that when he had those, he was within medical care within seconds and we were able to resuscitate him," said Dr. Richard Fogel, a cardiologist at St. Vincent Hospital.
Doctors detected a blockage, placed a stent and eventually sent Tom home with a heart monitor.
"There is the common part of his case and then there is the very unusual part of his case," Fogel said.
The unusual was just beginning.
"That night, went to bed, then at 2 o'clock in the morning, St. Vincent called and said, 'Hey, you, we are picking up some irregular heartbeats and you need to come in'," Tom said.
They were in the emergency room in just ten minutes.
"I think I just started saying, 'Here we go'," Tom said. "Then you can look up at the monitor and see it and then I was out."
"The second time they tried to revive him, I covered my ears and closed my eyes and just started praying because I couldn't...I didn't...if that was the end, I didn't want to watch it that way," Allison said.
The first time, doctors say it appeared Tom's heart had a "plumbing issue," but now it seemed to have an electrical one.
"To have that electrical instability persist makes you wonder what else is going on," Fogel said.
"Everyone's face was different, like, 'Okay, this...we can't figure this out'," Allison said.
It kept occurring. Tom could predict his third and fourth cardiac arrests seconds in advance.
"That is extremely unusual," said Fogel. "It's good, because it gave Mrs. Melangton the opportunity to go get the nurse, go get the physician so that we could be right there when he had the cardiac arrest."
Each time, 48-year-old Tom came back, but weaker.
"I really do think he accepted the fact that there was a strong chance that he wasn't going to make it," Allison said.
She kept a journal of their three weeks at the hospital and remembers explaining her tears to her pastor.
"I'm not questioning my faith, I'm not questioning why this is really happening, I'm not afraid to be alone, all those things. What I am crying for is, I am going to miss him," she said.
Add to that, Allison's heart started racing, too.
"They put a monitor on me and I wore it for ten days or so and my heartbeat is elevated right now and it has been for the past six or eight weeks," she said. "I don't know if I am having sympathy heart with him or the stress added up a little bit or if both of us got into something, a virus or something, that caused all of this."
"It's a hard thing and we probably will never know," Fogel said.
In the meantime, Tom stabilized enough to get a defibrillator implanted. He is now doing well in rehabilitation and doctors are monitoring Allison, too.
The couple even has a new favorite song.
"One of the lines in there is, 'God is as close as your next heartbeat'," Allison said. "We were so close to that point, so we are going to treasure every day. Not that we didn't before, because we did, but treasure every day more because it could be gone."
Allison leaves for Atlanta early Monday morning and feels optimistic about the city winning the bid for the 2018 Super Bowl. She says the work was able to continue despite the health crisis, because of her supportive board and staff and for that, she is grateful.?