ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – It has been a rough few weeks for the Lancaster family.
“I remember having a cough and then I remember going to the hospital in Elizabeth City and then I woke up here (at Sentara Heart Hospital),” said 27-year-old John Lancaster.
He also didn’t remember that his wife was nine months pregnant.
“It was hard giving birth without him. It was not going the way it was supposed to go,” Erica Lancaster told WTKR.
When he was having trouble breathing on Jan. 17, his wife encouraged him to go to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center.
At first, doctors didn’t know what was wrong. When his condition got worse he was flown to Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.
Doctors detected an undiagnosed heart condition that was affecting his lungs.
Heart surgeon Dr. Jonathan Philpott installed an ECMO device (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) to keep John’s lungs functioning because his were not working on their own.
For 18 days, John was in a medically-induced coma.
During all of this, physicians discovered John has an undiagnosed condition called LVNC (Left Ventricular Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy), according to Sentara.
John praised the Nightingale Team, the doctors at Sentara and their Advanced Heart Failure program, led by Dr. David Baran.
“They are rock stars,” said John. “They saved my life and it means a lot. There were a lot of tears. I'm trying my best not to cry right now.”
On Jan. 24, his wife gave birth as John was undergoing surgery.
“After delivering her, an hour later I made my sister wheelchair me down before his procedure,” said Erica.
Daughter Kimber was born weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces -- ironically, her dad works at 7-Eleven.
John said holding his daughter for the first time was “better than any medicine in the world. Pretty amazing.”