For 18 days, John Lancaster was put into a medically induced coma.
Over the weekend, the 27-year-old North Carolina man woke up not even knowing his wife gave birth to his daughter, Kimber.
“I remember having a cough and then I remember going to the hospital in Elizabeth City [NC] and then I woke up here [Sentara Heart Hospital],” Lancaster told CBS-affiliated television station WTKR.
In January, Lancaster was suffering from what he thought was a bad cold, and doctors later realized he had pneumonia.
Speaking with Global News, Dr. David Baran, director of the Sentara Advanced Heart Failure Center in Virginia, says Lancaster also had an undiagnosed heart condition called left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy (LVNC).
“As you get older people may develop symptoms, but most young people have no idea,” he says, adding when it comes to heart conditions, unless you have a family history, people between the ages of 20 and 30 never get their hearts checked.
According to Cardiomyopathy U.K., LVNC is a condition where the muscular wall of the left chamber of the heart appears to be spongy. It can affect the heart’s ability to pump, as well as the heart’s electrical signalling.
The site adds not everyone with the condition can feel symptoms, but common ones include breathlessness, dizziness, fainting or abnormal heartbeats.
LVNC is often caused by a genetic condition and has several treatment options.
“We were lucky [his other] doctors recognized it,” Baran continues, “By the time he came here he was was super sick, but we could put him on life support.” The coma, he adds, is the reason why Lancaster couldn’t remember his wife was nine months pregnant, not the heart condition in particular.
“We put him on various drugs which is probably why he doesn’t remember.”
He adds while most people who have it don’t realize it, often something happens to unmask it. In Lancaster’s case, Baran adds he was a workaholic working 60 hours a week at a local 7-Eleven — which eventually led him to get sick.
Baran says the LVNC was affecting his lungs, and doctors at Sentara eventually installed an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation device to help his lung’s function.
Lancaster told WTKR he was grateful for his doctors.
“They are rock stars,” he said. “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.”
His wife, Erica, gave birth to their daughter on Jan. 24, while Lancaster was still going through surgery.
“It was hard giving birth without him. It was not going the way it was supposed to go,” she told WTKR.
Baran still remembers the day Lancaster woke up.
“I was there the first day we took him off the ventilator and it was remarkable,” he says. “He saw his wife and child, but for that first hour, he was just confused. He didn’t understand a lot of it and had very odd dreams.”
But after receiving medication, Baran says he is now fully neurologically intact.
“He was overwhelmed, he missed the time of birth but he is very grateful.”