December 12 was like any other day for Jeff Alley of Princeton.
He put in a hard day’s work driving a truck as he hauled timber from a harvesting area to a paper mill in Two Harbors.
After Alley’s last delivery of the day, he got in his pickup and drove into the woods to his fish house, a place that he called his temporary home while away from Princeton.
Through the wonders of technology, Alley was able to use his cell phone to talk to a close friend for about 20 minutes.
And like he did on any other day, he talked to his wife Angie on the phone for about a half hour.
But that’s where December 12 stopped being like any other day.
Angie recalls her husband’s voice sounding hoarse. He complained that he didn’t feel good. He said he was dizzy and had pain in his chest and in his back.
Angie yelled at her husband to call 911.
Emergency crews used GPS technology in Jeff’s cell phone to find their way into the woods that he called home. They found him laying on the ground between his truck and a trailer.
EMS crews transported Alley to a hospital in Two Harbors where doctors first thought he suffered a heart attack.
But his diagnosis was far worse than a heart attack and he was rushed to a hospital in Duluth.
I find it amazing how one minute you can be talking on a cell phone in the north woods near the shores of Lake Superior and the next minute you’re hanging on for dear life in a Duluth ER.
But that was the case with Jeff Alley.
Doctors found that Alley had a tear in his aorta, the largest artery in our bodies.
He underwent five hours of surgery, during which doctors wrapped his aorta in a kevlar-type material and installed a new valve leading to his heart.
The surgery may have saved Jeff Alley’s life that day, but it did not result in a happy ending.
Two days later on Thursday, Dec. 14, Alley almost died.
All his vital organs stopped working and doctors and nurses worked diligently to bring Alley back from his state of crisis.
Alley was revived, but not before he suffered a stroke. It appears that a piece of his aorta broke lose and passed through his brain.
His liver, kidneys, and pancreas all shut down. The blood flow to his feet and hands shut down, too.
Alley’s family was called to the hospital so he could be surrounded by loved ones at this time of uncertainty. His wife Angie, mother Sheryl Simpson, father Don Alley and stepfather Harry Simpson were all by his side as Jeff rested peacefully in a coma, a state in which he remained for eight days.
On December 22 Jeff Alley surprised his loved ones with the greatest of Christmas gifts. That’s the day he opened his eyes and tried to communicate. He put his thumbs up in the air and squeezed hands of those around him.
Alley was in the hospital for 50 days. He was then moved to a rehabilitation center in Foley.
Two weeks ago today, Alley went home, where he is rehabilitating at his residence just south of Princeton.
But there’s a long road ahead for Jeff Alley.
The loss of blood flow to his feet left him with toes that turned gangrenous. He had blisters form on the bottom of his feet that were so severe that he was left with raw skin on his feet. The pain and bleeding makes it hard for Alley to walk. He can’t return to work — and in the mean time, his medical bills are growing to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That’s why Jeff Alley and his family need your help. A benefit fund has been established at Bremer Bank in Princeton. It’s a place where you can give the family a helping hand if you so desire.
I know that any gift will be greatly appreciated. You can make a contribution at the bank by asking for the Jeffrey Alley Benefit Account. I know I will.
Jeff Hage is the editor of the Union-Eagle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.