The Heroes at Lawrence General Hospital ~ Performing One Miracle After Another

By: Valley Patriot Staff (10-23)

As most of you know by now, Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan is home and recovering from a near death illness that took the expertise, skills, and a few medical miracles from the teams of doctors and medical professionals who struggled for more than 10 days to keep Duggan alive.


When Duggan showed up at the Emergency Room at Lawrence General Hospital late on August 28th – neither he, nor the medical staff, had any idea what they would be faced with over the next 30 days.

Complaining that he couldn’t breathe, Duggan was taken in right away and given a room in the E.R. As Dr. Laurel Barrett evaluated Duggan, he was given oxygen and eventually admitted to the intensive care unit by Dr. Michael Malik. But the doctors still didn’t realize how serious Duggan’s condition was.

In less than 24 hours, Duggan’s condition rapidly deteriorated and he was bagged to help him breathe and eventually intubated on a ventilator and given a feeding tube.

Duggan was put into a drug-induced coma and given a paralytic to stop him from waking up and injuring himself.

From there, he was tended to by a team of doctors and medical professionals as well as dozens of nurses who worked around the clock to keep Duggan alive.

He was eventually diagnosed with communal pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, septic shock, fungal infections, and several other ailments.

Doctors gave him four different anti-biotics.

The mortality rate for patients in such respiratory failure is 43%-48%. Duggan struggled for days with no sign of improvement.


“For the first five days Tom was in the coma, the doctors kept telling us that he wasn’t getting any worse, but he also was not getting any better,” one family member said.

“They had tubes breathing for him, feeding him, monitoring his vitals, and keeping him out of pain, which was the only saving grace. I remember thinking at least he’s not in pain but are we going to have to plan a funeral?”

Another family member told the Valley Patriot staff that Duggan’s oxygen levels were near 80%, (which is close to fatal) and because he was in a coma, the doctors and nurses had to monitor him every minute, 24-7 while they worked on a solution to getting rid of the pneumonia and the other infections.

“He was under constant care and supervision to make sure his body didn’t form any blood clots. They pulled off more than a few miracles,” Duggan’s mother said.

“We prayed and we prayed hard. These doctors were so amazing. I don’t know how they did it but those people, all of them, are heroes for the way they saved him over and over.”

Duggan’s coma lasted for ten days.

“He showed almost no signs of improvement until that eighth or ninth day,” Duggan’s friend Joe Solomon told the Valley Patriot.

“That’s when the doctors and the respiratory teams were finally able to turn things around and get the infections under control. It finally seemed like he was out of the woods, and he was going to make it, but we were afraid to breathe a sigh of relief because everything was so inconsistent and unpredictable.”

“We were all just taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude. I remember the doctor telling his mom that he actually was showing signs of improvement but that he wasn’t improving fast enough for their liking. You could see that they were still worried.”


On the tenth day, Duggan was brought out of the drug-induced coma but was still on a ventilator and a breathing tube for a few more days, as doctors and nurses monitored his condition.

“I had just spent ten days hallucinating from the drugs they had me on,” Duggan recalled later. “I literally had no idea where I was, or why I was there. I was confused. I was angry. I could tell I was in a hospital, but I couldn’t remember why or what hospital. I didn’t know what was real anymore.”

“For two days I would wake up in this dark room with the TV on, trying to figure out what was going on. It was frightening. Even when a nurses would come in and talk to me I could barely remember what they had said seconds after they said it. I wasn’t retaining anything.”

“Every minute felt like an hour. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. I remember thinking, ‘I may be going out but I’m not going out without a fight, then I realized I was tied down to this bed with tubes and machines invading my body, and I wasn’t fighting anything,  I was completely helpless.”

Duggan says on the second day he was out of the coma he was sleeping a lot but at one point he woke up and saw one of the ICU Doctors, Dr. Ghazwan Acash talking to one of the nurses.

“He’s the one who made the decision to take me off the ventilator and feeding tube to see if I could breathe on my own. He was concerned that after so long I might not be able to, so he told me that they were removing the tubes, but if I can’t breathe not to worry, they would put it right back in ‘so don’t panic.’ he said. I had never felt so helpless in my life.”


Duggan was eventually released from the Intensive care unit and placed in a regular room in the Hamblet building of Lawrence General where his friends and family began to fill him in on what had happened.

“They said the doctors told them this all happened because of the biologic drug called Simponi that I was taking for a joint condition that I have. It decimated my immune system and made me unable to fight off anything my body came into contact with.


Duggan said that over the next four weeks he had to re-learn how to write his name, tie his shoes, and perform simple tasks.

“It was frustrating having to re-learn things that I did my whole life without even thinking about. I was mixing up words, saying phrases backwards, and at times I knew what I wanted to say but nothing was coming out. It was like I had a complete brain freeze.”

Eventually Duggan was able to regain all of his faculties and with the help of two teams of writers and editors working remotely, Duggan was able to publish the September edition of The Valley Patriot from his hospital bed at Hannah Duston Rehab facility in Haverhill. (Thank You Lawrence General)

“Once I figured out how to type – which I learned before I could even write my own name with a pen – I decided we were not going to let September go by without publishing something. And while I was pretty proud of myself for being able to pull that off, the whole time I was working on that paper I could not help but wonder if I was ever going to be able to thank the many doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists, and all the other medical professionals who saved my life.”

“I just feel really blessed that I am able to do that in this edition of the paper, and while I may not have all the names of all the people who kept me alive those ten days, I want to publish the names of those I do have and thank everyone else whose name I never received.

They are: E.R. Doctors: Dr. Laurel Barrett, PA-C, and Michael Malek.
ICU Doctors: Pulmonologist, Dr. Patrick Scanlon, Dr. Chris Voscopoulos, Dr. Ghazwan Acash, ICU Intensivist Dr. John Brady, Dr. Maria Policelli, and Hospitalists Dr. Morgan Moncada and Dr. Tufiq Zaman. ICU, Respiratory & Hamblet Bldg. Nurses: Marissa, Kristen, Letty, Jamie, Holly, Yoli (Shakira), Cheryl (Hamblet Bldg.), Ann, Maria Ryan, Tommy Faucher (admin) Bailey, Gerry and the two dozen or more nurses and nurses aides.

“I also want to thank those whose names I did not get access to from the discharge papers”, Duggan said.

“You are all true heroes who do this work every day on people who will never have a chance to say thank you. So, on behalf of every patient you have worked on, those who made it, and even those who did not … THANK YOU!”  


Last Mont’s Editorial

Thank You Lawrence General Hospital! ~ VALLEY PATRIOT EDITORIAL (09-23)