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Ogden man grateful for ‘Promise’ of health

Salt Lake hospital helps him get home for holidays

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The last time John Montague was home, it was hotter than blazes under a mid-August sky. Tuesday, he shook off fresh snow and shivered in cold temperatures as he approached his house in Ogden. "Isn't this a beautiful day," he declared as he maneuvered his way to the door, clutching a walker. "I can smell the Christmas tree. It smells so wonderful."

He's home in time to celebrate not only Christmas; Friday is his 30th anniversary with wife Roz. And life seems pretty sweet right now to the man some doctors didn't believe would survive after he fell desperately ill last summer.

He had been battling kidney stones and suddenly passed out, waking to find his house filled with paramedics and firemen. He'd been home only a couple of hours after a stay in an Ogden hospital for that when he tried to roll over and kept rolling, hitting the floor. "I felt like I was bouncing up and down like a playground ball," he recalls.

He woke up three weeks later to learn that his blood sugar levels had crashed, his kidneys stopped working, he had a blood clot on his lung and he'd been on a ventilator for much of the time. Although he'd been at times seemingly responsive, he remembered nothing of how he got from the hospital in Ogden to Promise Hospital — a long-term, acute-care hospital in Salt Lake City — or his early stay there. It would be another three months before he was deemed well enough to go home, 270 pounds (he'd weighed 765 pounds) and several medical issues lighter.

Promise is a hospital within a hospital, renting space from Salt Lake Regional Medical Center for 31 medical-surgical beds and nine high-observation beds, although the two hospitals are not otherwise affiliated. Promise, says CEO Kelly Imlay, specializes in patients who are medically complex, who need care 24/7, but are a small step down from intensive care. During a recent open house, Imlay said they provide extensive wound care, for instance, and work hard to wean patients off ventilators, sometimes even when other care providers deem it unlikely. That's what happened with Montague.

He had poor muscle tone to begin with because his weight kept him largely bedbound prior to hospitalization, says Montague, who turned 54 in the hospital. When he was transferred to Promise Hospital Sept. 10, he couldn't breathe adequately without mechanical support and was fed through a tube. "I was in pretty deep trouble."

Promise worked actively to get him off the ventilator, he says, and it succeeded. When he woke up, he was breathing on his own, but he was so weak that he couldn't move his legs or lift his arms. He struggled just to scratch his nose.

He knew he was someplace new. Before the illness, he'd become depressed by his homebound state. Suddenly, he was raring to go, to be with family — his wife, five kids and foster son — to survive.

When it finally appeared he might get his wish to go home, Imlay says it was clear he'd need a wheelchair and some adaptations at home. She roped her willing husband, Sy Imlay, into building a steel ramp to make the place accessible.

So Tuesday, amid a flood of heartfelt hugs and well-wishes from hospital staff, Montague did the seemingly impossible. He went home. Where, by afternoon, he was holding his new granddaughter, Addy, for the very first time .

E-mail: Lois@desnews.com