HOUSTON (June 13, 2014)

Boxing was Derek Hunt’s exercise of choice. “I thought I was in good shape. Life was great and I was on top of the world,” said the 39-year-old father of three.

While hitting the bag at home last August, Hunt suffered a massive heart attack. His heart stopped twice before the ambulance made it to Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital. There, Hunt, who is also the pastor of Vision Church in Pearland, was only given a 50-50 chance to live.

On Thursday, June 12, Hunt joined other appreciative patients at a gathering with the Memorial Hermann Southeast Intensive Care Unit (ICU) doctors, nurses, and staff members who saved their lives.

Planned as a celebration of survival and healing, the reunion also brought closure to painful chapters for some, inspiration to many, and a chance to express thanks from family and patients.

The ICU at Memorial Hermann Southeast has 24 intensive care beds, 8 intermediate beds, and 12 overflow beds. It treats patients with extremely serious injuries and illnesses, many of which are life threatening. These patients need special equipment and medication, and constant monitoring and support from specialists.

“We do everything humanly possible so our patients are able to get back to their families and friends and resume their lives as soon as possible,” said ICU Patient Care Director Mary Carrillo, RN, BSN, CVRN. “Then, we are on to the next emergency.”

Because of that, ICU staff members usually never see patients again. So periodically, Carrillo and the ICU staff invite former patients back to share their experiences and progress.

Patients like Angelica Wheeler. Admitted to Memorial Hermann Southeast last November, Wheeler was suffering from double pneumonia, the flu, and complications from being a smoker.

“I was really sick, coughing up blood, but I always took care of my family and friends before myself,” said Wheeler, a 42-year-old mother of two who lives with her husband in southeast Houston. “It’s hard to believe I was so sick that I can’t remember almost two months of my life.”

Wheeler almost lost more than that. At one point, the physicians told her family to be prepared to make funeral arrangements.

“They have such good hearts, I really found another family at Memorial Hermann Southeast,” said Wheeler. “When I was in pain or crying, they were there for me – the most beautiful people you have ever met.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that I am alive because of the care and the people who work at Memorial Hermann Southeast,” said Hunt, who also completed cardiac rehabilitation at the hospital. He now bikes 12 to 24 miles a day and continues his ministry work.

“We realize being in the ICU is a challenging time in someone’s life, and experiencing that every day sometimes takes an emotional toll on our staff,” said ICU Clinical Manager Janet Gregory, RN, BSN, CCRN. “We are so thrilled when patients visit and share how they are doing. Seeing them happy and healthy is what makes this job so rewarding.”