Utah dad left fighting for life in Ecuador after suffering aortic tear dies, family says

A family in Utah who was desperately racing to get their father home from Ecuador after he suffered a major tear in his heart announced that he died on Sunday.

James Campbell, of Wellington, had been getting ready to depart for the Philippines when he legs gave out last week, a relative had told KSL.com.

“He was heading back from dinner and his legs gave out from under him,” Randy Dieterle, Campbell’s father-in-law, told the news outlet. “He just couldn’t walk. And he eventually was able to make it into a hospital after being out in front of the hospital for some time without getting help. But he got into the hospital.”

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Once hospitalized, doctors discovered Campbell had suffered an aortic dissection, which according to the American Heart Association results in a split in the artery wall and jeopardizes the body’s blood supply. It’s considered a life-threatening emergency and requires surgery for repair. Symptoms may include severe, sharp tearing pain in the chest and back paired with shortness of breath, fainting or dizziness, rapid weak pulse or symptoms of a stroke.

About 40 percent of patients die immediately from a complete rupture and bleeding out from the aorta, according to Cleveland Clinic.

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The family said they were first alerted last weekend and had been prepared for his imminent death, but they credit his doctors in Cuenca for stabilizing him so that when they arrived he began showing signs of improvement, KSL.com reported.

“The doctor that I spoke with says she’s never seen anybody in that condition and that far along that’s survived it,” Dieterle told the news outlet. “So we call it a miracle that he’s survived.”

But the father-of-five died before the family could get him back to the U.S. for further treatment. A GoFundMe page started by his daughter said that they had to first pay the hospital for his release and that they were working with insurance companies to fly him to Salt Lake City.

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“We are so grateful for everyone’s messages and donations and we were so ready to fly him back,” Emma Campbell posted Sunday on the GoFundMe page. “But my dad passed away early this morning. Thank you to everyone who supported us and will continue to support us through this difficult time.”

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