Herschell Cromwell remembers nothing about that day he was moments from death

April 02, 2014
Herschell Cromwell remembers nothing about that day he was moments from death, the day his wife OK’d surgery for his ruptured aneurysm, an operation at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center that gave him just a 50-50 chance of survival. Allenna Cromwell tells her 65-year-old husband’s dramatic story. It was the day after Christmas 2010 and the Cromwells, together for 20 years, were heading home to Lancaster from a holiday visit with family in Arleta. About a third of the way home, Herschell felt intensely burning back pain and begged his wife to exit the Antelope Valley Freeway in Newhall. She called 911 at 5:23 p.m. – the time is seared in her memory – and the arriving paramedics suspected a heart attack. “They said, ‘We want to take him to Holy Cross, is that all right?’ I said of course. They told me how to get there and I followed. Jason Fisher, M.D., medical director of the Emergency Department at Providence Holy Cross, takes the story from there in a letter he wrote to the Belanger family, donors of equipment Dr. Fisher said saved Herschell’s life. “Upon his arrival he complained of no chest pain and his EKG was normal. His only complaint was searing back pain. Within two minutes I put the ultrasound on his abdomen revealing a ruptured aortic aneurysm. I was on the phone with vascular surgery in five minutes and he was in the operating room in 45 minutes. Without the quick bedside diagnosis via ultrasound, we are at the mercy of CT scan, which takes about 40 minutes. This man would not be alive today if it was not for your family’s generosity.” Herschell went home Jan. 3 and recovered well. He was speechless when he learned that a donor to the hospital had provided the equipment that saved his life. Allenna, too, was grateful. After her husband was examined and so quickly diagnosed, the physician told her surgery was his only option – and his chance of survival were just 50 percent. “Without surgery, he would die. I told them ‘I’ll take the 50-50.” “Then the doctor told me to lean over and tell him I love him and for him to tell me he loves me. I told him ‘you better not leave me.’ I think that stayed in his subconscious.”