Patient Stories

Doctor Turned Patient

Dr. Russell Mcune is an emergency physician at Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho. When he began his Saturday night shift on the eve of Easter 2023, he had no idea what was in store for him. His shift began as any other, treating patients and preparing for a busy night. He’d experienced some mild chest pain earlier that afternoon but wrote it off as indigestion. As the evening wore on, his chest pain continued. He asked one of his nurses to run an EKG just to be sure, and it came back normal. He told himself it was nothing and continued treating patients.

A short time later, he went to his office to retrieve something and was stopped short by a sharp, stabbing pain that ran up the right side of his chest and into his neck. At this point, his vision had also deteriorated, and he couldn’t see. He clung to his desk and thought: “as long as I stay standing, I’ll be fine.” After about ninety seconds, his vision began to clear. He returned to the emergency room to ensure that if anything more were to happen, he would be in a location where others could see him. His nurses, eyeing him closely, noticed that something was off, and Dr. Mcune proceeded to check himself into the ER as a patient. As the attending physician, he was entering information on his own chart and placed an order for a CT scan. He had a known aneurysm in his aorta and wanted to take a closer look due to the symptoms he was experiencing. What he discovered was a massive tear, running from the base of his aorta down to his iliac artery. Recognizing how serious his condition was, he jumped into action and began ordering the necessary treatment, including air medical transport to a larger hospital offering the specialized care he required. Life Flight Network arrived quickly, after diverting on their return from another patient transport, and rapidly prepared Dr. Mcune to be transferred to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The flight crew arrived, and the nurse introduced herself to Dr. Mcune as Hope. With a sigh of relief, he said: “Oh thank you. You’re the perfect nurse for me tonight!” Dr. Mcune’s condition was incredibly time sensitive. Less than five percent of patients with this condition survive and that survival rate continues to drop as time passes. Without Life Flight Network’s ICU-level care and rapid transport, it is very likely that Dr. Mcune would not have survived.

After ten hours of open-heart surgery that involved replacing his torn valve with a bovine valve, Dr. Mcune has made a remarkable recovery. Thanks to the quick actions of the staff at Madison Memorial Hospital, Life Flight Network, and University of Utah Hospital, he is alive and has returned to caring for his community as an emergency physician.


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