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'It was very scary': Woman travels to Muskegon for heart surgery because hospitals are at capacity

46-year-old Lutricia Harmon is now recovering from a quadruple bypass at Mercy Health Heart Center in Muskegon
Lutricia Harmon WEB
Posted at 6:22 PM, Dec 15, 2021

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Because of hospitals in Grand Rapids being at capacity due to the recent surge in COVID cases, a Grand Rapids woman had to travel all the way out to Muskegon in order to have emergency open-heart surgery.

Forty-six-year-old Lutricia Harmon has been extremely conscious of any issues with her heart after suffering a heart attack last year.

On an evening about three weeks ago, she knew something was wrong, and decided to call her daughter, Ashley Durr.

“She called me one night and was like, 'I'm headed to the hospital.' I said, 'Okay, I'll meet you there,'” Durr explained to FOX 17 Wednesday afternoon.

“Scary... It was very scary.”

Her mother went in to Mercy Health Saint Mary's in Grand Rapids to be checked out, but was initially told everything looked fine. After spending a few days back at home resting, she once again felt something off with her heart.

“She knew something was wrong the whole time," Durr said.

“She did another test with them, and they knew immediately that she needed this surgery.”

Harmon needed open-heart surgery as soon as possible, a quadruple bypass. She would need to find a hospital with an open intensive care bed, but Mercy Health Saint Mary's doesn't perform such surgeries.

Spectrum Grand Rapids, the hospital closest to their homes, wasn't able to accommodate at the time.

A spokesperson for Spectrum Health told FOX 17 late Wednesday that "During the most recent COVID surges and high hospital census numbers, nearly every aspect of Spectrum Health’s operations has been impacted, including emergency departments, medical surgical units, ICU units and transfers to post-acute care settings such as rehab and nursing units."

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"During this time, and like hospitals around the country, Spectrum Health has postponed or deferred elective surgeries and turned down transfer requests from other hospitals in the region when necessary," the statement continued.

All of Spectrum's emergency departments remain open.

Durr, who works in a hospital herself, began frantically looking for another location with an open intensive care bed.

“No one else around us, around the area, were taking transfers, and Muskegon was the first one to open up,” she said.

They ended up receiving word that a bed was available at the Mercy Health Heart Center in Muskegon.

It wasn't convenient, but it was the only option at the time.

The family started a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover a nearby hotel room, and growing transportation costs. A friend ended up covering the entire cost of a room, but they are still hoping they can raise enough money to help financially support their mother during her recovery, when she isn't able to work.

“I would like to thank everybody that have donated so far… we appreciate everything, and everybody,” Durr told FOX 17.

Her mother had her surgery Wednesday morning, and successfully made it through. She will now spend about five days recovering in that intensive care room.

They are all eager for the day they can all travel back to their homes in Grand Rapids together.

The state of Michigan maintains a website HERE with the current bed capacity levels at all Michigan healthcare facilities.

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