A Belizean bus driver with a near-fatal heart condition received a second lease on life thanks to cross-border fundraising efforts that brought him to Health City Cayman Islands just hours before he suffered a massive heart attack.
Tyron Coleman, 44, had hit a road block in Belize, where doctors told him they could not treat his severe and life-threatening chest pain.
“We were waiting until the doctor took the angiogram to give us an answer if he can do it. He called my wife and told my wife that he can’t work on me and nobody can work on me, that I am so delicate that if they ever go in and touch me, that’s it,” Mr. Coleman told Health City Cayman Islands.
The bleak prognosis spurred to action Mr. Coleman’s family and sister-in-law Dorla Williams. After a consultation in Chetumal, Mexico, led to the suggestion of flying Mr. Coleman to Cayman, his family launched a desperate fundraising effort to save his life.
“We were all begging for help on social media, telling people, ‘Don’t just like the post. We need money. Please give money,’” Ms. Williams said.
“If we were not on media, none of this would have happened. Nobody told me to do this, but I knew the risks.”
While the family’s efforts were able to drive fundraising momentum, Ms. Williams said it seemed impossible at first to cover the US$12,800 necessary to transport Mr. Coleman in an air ambulance. It was only after the Belizean community in Cayman got word of the situation that the life-saving trip became a reality.
Moved by a recent personal loss, Belize Cayman Association treasurer Andrew Hulse spearheaded outreach efforts, along with other association members.
“None of us knew him. We just got the story and decided to help,” he said.
While the association has few formal meetings, Mr. Hulse said the group comes together from time to time to address select charitable needs, such as fundraising for schools in Belize.
“Whenever we have a need, we will get together and decide what we can do to help,” Mr. Hulse said. “When another need arises, we’ll do the same thing.”
By assuming the responsibility for Mr. Coleman’s ambulance and hospital fees, the association was able to transport him to the island in time to save his life.
Just three hours after arriving in Grand Cayman on Oct. 25, Mr. Coleman suffered a massive heart attack, requiring an emergency, 10-hour cardiopulmonary bypass.
Health City’s senior cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon, Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, said Mr. Coleman had a major blockage in his main artery and narrowing in other arteries.
“We had planned for the surgery the next morning, but what happened was within three hours, around 10:30 at night, he had a massive heart attack,” Dr. Chattuparambil said in a public statement.
“Doing an emergency surgery like that when someone has had a cardiac arrest after a heart attack in the middle of the night is not easy …. To do the surgery within such a short span of time, it was really incredible and we have such a good, wonderful team here.”
Members of the Cayman Belizean community accompanied Mr. Coleman when he arrived at the hospital and throughout his recovery. By the second week, Mr. Hulse said he saw Mr. Coleman up and walking, joking and laughing with others.
“It was amazing. When we saw him, we couldn’t believe this guy had been on death’s door,” Mr. Hulse said.
“Apart from this touching me personally, this touched a lot of people in Cayman. This was someone who was on death’s door and the only way out was to get to Cayman and Health City.”
Health City regional sales manager Hemant Balgobin said Mr. Coleman’s story was ultimately the result of international partnerships and the generous efforts of the local community.
“Honestly, it was the Belizean community that heard about the case. It was the Belizean community that reached out in Cayman. They were instrumental and spoke directly with the local air ambulance provider to raise money,” Mr. Balgobin said.
Ms. Williams said that while it is not uncommon for Belizeans to lend each other a helping hand, this case took her by surprise.
“I was so overwhelmed that they actually decided to do this for us and they were that generous. That’s a lot of money,” she said. Ms. Williams continues to raise money to cover remaining costs, but she said her brother-in-law is home now and recovering well.