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Utah father fighting for life after suffering medical episode on Ecuador business trip

By Ashley Imlay and Dan Bammes, KSL | Posted - Jul. 13, 2019 at 3:27 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah father of five is fighting for his life in Ecuador after suffering a serious medical condition while on a business trip, according to family members.

James Campbell, of Wellington, Carbon County, who works as a chief technology officer, was making contacts in South and Central America and getting ready to travel to the Philippines when his body started shutting down due to an aortic dissection, which occurs when there is a tear in the large blood vessel that branches off the heart.

The condition is often fatal, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"He was heading back from dinner and his legs gave out from under him. 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," said Randy Dieterle, his father-in-law.

Doctors in Cuenca, Ecuador, originally diagnosed Campbell with an infection, but they eventually found he had a dissected aorta and began giving him dialysis.

Last weekend, Campbell's family members in the U.S. learned that Campbell wasn't expected to survive through the night, and hospital workers said they were making him comfortable.

"Fortunately, our daughter, we sent her down to be with him and take care of what needed to be done down there. She expected to go down and take care of getting him back here for a memorial," Dieterle said.

But when Campbell's wife got there, he started to improve.

The health care has been "exceptional" in Ecuador, according to Dieterle. A team of five doctors has been working on Campbell and gotten him stable. But they can't repair his aorta there and it can fail at any time, the father-in-law said.

"The doctor that I spoke with says she's never seen anybody in that condition and that far along that's survived it," Dieterle said. "So we call it a miracle that he's survived."

Campbell is now conscious and circulation has returned to his leg. But if he doesn't return to the U.S. for surgery, the aorta could "let loose at any point and he'd be gone almost immediately," Dieterle said.

The family and the company Campbell works for believe his health insurance will reimburse them for some of the hospital costs, but won't cover the cost of flying him in a medical helicopter outside the U.S.

They're working with AirMed and Intermountain Healthcare to have Campbell flown to Birmingham, Alabama, and then into Salt Lake City. But they need to pay the Ecuadorian hospital before he is released, an estimated $20,000 to $25,000. They then need to pay AirMed $46,000 in full before the company will schedule the flight, Dieterle said.

Family members are contributing what they can but have established a GoFundMe campaign to help come up with additional costs, Dieterle said.

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Ashley Imlay
    Dan Bammes

      KSL Weather Forecast