Killing cancer cells in the human body is not the challenge. Doing so without irreparably damaging the patient’s health, or worse, is why the US pours billions of dollars a year into cancer research.
In 2008, Eric Brasier was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a pernicious but treatable cancer of the white blood cells and lymphatic system. Thankfully, Eric beat his cancer.
The People & Places Behind Eric’s Story
Location Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center to Brigham and Women’s (Boston)
Captain Dave Burr
Nurse Lorry Sheasgreen
Paramedic Frank McClellan
CommSpec Mike DeVeau
Asset Rotor Wing
Location: Bangor International Airport to Brigham and Women’s (Boston)
Captain: Mike McGovern
First Officer Ryan Seymour
Nurse Kelly Young
Paramedic Peter Garrett
CommSpec Mike DeVeau
Asset: Fixed Wing
Location: Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center to Brigham and Women’s (Boston)
Nurse Morgan Greene
Paramedic Charlotte Duncan
CommSpec Terri Smith
CommSpec Jason Sanford
Asset Ground Ambulance
But treatment damaged his heart, and in 2019 he was admitted to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) with congestive heart failure. “My heart was 100% blocked,” Eric said. “I was told there’s no way I should be alive right now.” He needed more advanced care than he could find in his home state of Maine, so LifeFlight transported him by helicopter to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
After six hours of surgery and weeks of inpatient recovery, Eric went home with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a machine that augments the work of the human heart when it is unable to effectively pump blood through the body on its own. “I felt like the bionic man at times,” Eric said. “I had to wait for a heart transplant, and I had to get healthy to get it.”
In May 2023, he was at home in Eddington when he got the call. “It’s time to go. The heart is good,” he remembers hearing over the phone. He needed to get to Boston for surgery, and quickly. He went to Bangor International Airport, where LifeFlight’s airplane was fueled and waiting on the tarmac. It’s a four-hour drive from Bangor to Boston without traffic, but by air the trip takes less than an hour and a half.
The surgery was successful, and Eric woke up six days later. He was eventually discharged and sent home to Maine. But three days after he got home, he was lying in the emergency room again at EMMC. Something was wrong, and he needed to see his doctors in Boston. LifeFlight brought Eric back to Boston, this time in a critical care ground vehicle because severe storms in Boston prohibited the aircraft from safely flying.
That was June 14, 2023, and James Taylor, one of Eric’s favorite artists, was playing in Bangor on the 27th of that month. He remembers thinking he had to get out of the hospital in time to go to the show. And he did. His doctors in Boston cleared him to go home, and he made it to the show. “I got to sit there in the pouring rain, without my LVAD, literally soaking it all in,” he recalled.
First published as the July feature story in the LifeFlight of Maine 2024 Calendar.