Labor pains and chest pains.
Birth and near-death.
Fear, joy and utter relief: The Spaulding family lived it all in one day.
A new baby entered the world while his great-great-grandfather fought to survive a near-fatal heart attack.
“We had quite the emotional roller coaster,” said Sue Snavley, as she sat with her dad at Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center. “I don’t know if it’s really hit all of us yet—these two miracles.”
The morning of Thursday, May 30, 2019, began on a happy note.
David Spaulding, the 85-year-old family patriarch, sat in his living room chatting with his wife, Dorothy, and his daughter, Deb, about some exciting news. Their great-grandson had just called to say his fiancée went into labor and they were headed to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.
David and Dorothy, married 64 years, couldn’t wait to welcome the new baby to their large, extended family.
“We were elated in our conversation. And all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky, (David) said, ‘I don’t feel good,’” Dorothy said.
She and Deb looked in alarm at his face, suddenly gray and sweaty.
“I came up with this chest pain,” David said. “I had already had two days of these chest pains and ignored them.
“This one hit me and the world came to an end right there. It was a massive pain right on that breast bone where the heart is.”
After a quick call to 911, paramedics arrived and soon an ambulance rushed David from his home in Cedar Springs to Butterworth Hospital. His wife and daughter followed, praying he would pull through.
“I was shaking like a leaf all the way to Grand Rapids,” Dorothy said.
Alerted by the ambulance crew, the cardiology team met David when he arrived at the emergency department.
“His blood pressure was about 50 over 30. He was in shock. He was kind of gray and cold and sweaty,” Spectrum Health interventional cardiologist Richard McNamara, MD, said. “He said he thought he was going to die. And I thought there was a good chance that was going to happen.”
Tests showed David’s right coronary artery was plugged “basically from top to bottom,” Dr. McNamara said. “It was an enormous artery, very long and wide. It’s a really important artery for him.”
The cardiology team went to work right away. In the catherization lab at the Meijer Heart Center, Dr. McNamara placed five stents in David’s artery to open it up.
“He had a beautiful result,” the doctor said.
Baby on the way
Meanwhile, in another hospital room, a different family drama was taking place.
David’s great-grandson, Zach Fandrich, sat beside his fiancée, Kristen Lattin, as she labored to deliver their first child. His mother, Kerri Sullivan, stopped by to visit. Zach could tell something troubled her. He insisted she tell him.
When he heard doctors were performing an emergency heart procedure on his great-grandfather, he reeled from the shock.
Growing up, he had spent a lot of time with his great-grandparents. They forged a close bond.
Over the next couple of hours, his emotions rose and fell, bouncing between excitement at the birth of his child and worry over his great-grandfather.
About 2 p.m., he decided not to wait any longer. He called David’s room. To his surprise, his great-grandfather answered. He had just gotten out of recovery and was alert and talking.
“My first question was, ‘Hi Grandpa, how are you doing?’” Zach said. “He said, ‘I’m doing fine. Is my baby here yet?’”
Just hearing his voice made Zach’s heart leap.
“It was like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders,” he said.
About four hours later, Kristin gave birth. Grayson David Fandrich arrived, weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces, with big, dark blue eyes and brown hair. He shares his middle name with two great-great-grandfathers and a great uncle.
His happy dad described him with one word: “Adorable.”
Just like great-great-grandpa
The day after his heart attack, still recovering, David couldn’t visit Grayson yet. But he didn’t need to meet the little guy to form an opinion.
“From what I hear, he is the most beautiful baby in the world. And the prettiest. And the smartest,” he said. “And he’s going to be like his great-great-grandpa because he eats three to four times an hour.”
Dorothy sat beside him and smiled.
“When I see him laughing and talking and carrying on like he usually does, it makes me a very happy woman,” she said.
David got his chance to meet his great-great-grandson two days after the birth.
On their way home from the hospital, Kristin and Zach brought their newborn boy to David’s room. David held the baby with tears in his eyes, assuring the parents he was just perfect.
“You did a really good job,” he told Kristin.
‘Everything in between’
Dr. McNamara marveled at how quickly David recovered. When he first met him, David had been in so much pain he could barely speak.
Less than 24 hours later, “He was sitting up in bed smiling and telling us about his great-great-grandson,” Dr. McNamara said.
“Age is just a number,” he added. “He is a very vital, vigorous guy, and hopefully he’ll do fine with this.”
Learning about Grayson’s birth made David’s survival more rewarding for the cardiology team.
“I’m always impressed at what happens in hospitals,” Dr. McNamara said. “You see the beginning of life and you see the end of life and everything in between.
“We are all smiling. He is the world’s nicest guy.”