Washington Township Man Survives Brush with Death and Credits ICU Staff with Saving His Life

March 14, 2022

A relatively healthy 51-year-old man does not expect to come close to death after feeling “under the weather.” But that’s exactly what happened to Jeff Walter of Washington Township. On April 26, 2021, Walter went into the high school where he works to start his 3 to 11 p.m. shift.

He felt fine initially, but within three hours, experienced pain on his left side so severe he ended up lying on his office floor. Back home, he barely ate or drank anything for the next four days, and tried self-medicating with over-the-counter medicine. Jeff’s stomach was bloated and soon his body started to swell, too. He finally went to his primary care doctor and was told to go to the hospital immediately or the they would call an ambulance to transport him there.

Jeff was admitted to the Jefferson Washington Township ICU with sepsis, meaning his body had an extreme response to an infection that triggered a chain reaction throughout his body. His kidneys and liver shut down and he had blood clots in his lungs. His family and fiancée were called to Jefferson Washington Township Hospital at midnight to say their goodbyes.

“I credit Dr. Joan Wiley, Dr. Jay Kirkham and Michaela Bailey, RN, with saving my life,” says Jeff. “Although I don’t remember much, I found out later I was bleeding out and the first six hours of my hospital stay would determine if I lived or died.”

One thing Jeff remembers vividly is a dream he had in the ICU of his deceased father saying to him, “Jeffrey, this is not your time.”

In an effort to save his life, Drs. Wiley and Kirkham used a device inserted down a tracheal tube to stop the bleeding in Jeff’s lung due to a severe alveolar hemorrhage -- a rare, life-threatening complication from autoimmune damage or, in his case, sepsis.

For three weeks after that procedure, Jeff was on a feeding tube and a trach. He says it was his devoted ICU nurse – Michaela Bailey -- who gave him the will to go on.

“Michaela fixed my hair when she knew my fiancée was coming to visit, she organized a birthday party for me while I was in the ICU and even came in on her days off to check on me,” says Jeff. “Her compassion was unbelievable.”

A year later, Jeff, who is now doing fine, came back to the hospital recently to visit his mother while she was a patient. It gave him the opportunity to thank the ICU team for the life-saving care he received. He also FaceTimed Dr. Wiley who said, “It was so nice to see how great he is doing!”

Jeff, who calls himself “Jefferson’s biggest fan” says he wouldn’t be here today “without this hospital and the people who work here.” Jeff and his fiancée, Marissa, are now looking forward to their June 2023 wedding in Cape May