By Natalie Simms
It’s been 45 days since Brandon Coryea has left the confines of his hospital room at Emory. The Army veteran and director of the Rome Public Works Garage is fighting for his life, battling a very dangerous blood clot in a main vein near his liver.
He’s got a group of ‘Brandon’s Warriors’, including friends, family and his City of Rome co-workers, supporting him and helping to raise funds for his medical treatment through donations, T-shirt sales and an upcoming benefit ride.
Although he was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 27, Brandon’s medical issues began back in September 2018 after he had gallbladder removed during a routine surgery.
“He felt for the first week or two and then started feeling bad again,” says Julie Coryea, Brandon’s wife of 21 years. “During his post-op appointment, they discovered a blood clot.”
Brandon was put on a blood thinner for a year and then switched him to regular aspirin for a while. Julie says his blood work was good, so his physician decided to stop the daily dose of aspirin. That was this past fall.
“About two months after he stopped the aspirin, he started feeling bad again. One day, he just passed out and had blood coming out where it shouldn’t,” she says. “He was diagnosed with esophageal varices, which is enlarged veins in the esophagus that burst and caused him to bleed out. They got him fixed and put him on a beta-blocker.”
That episode happened in November and then Julie got a call on Dec. 27 from Brandon’s co-worker saying they were taking him to the hospital because he was in extreme pain.
Turns out Brandon had a blood clot near his intestine, blocking flow of blood to his organs. He was transferred from a local hospital to Emory on Dec. 31, where he had emergency surgery to remove about 2.5 feet of his intestine.
“A few days later they did a third surgery to reconnect his intestine, but they found another clot and had to remove more of his intestine…he’s had a total of 120 cm (four feet) removed,” says Julie. “After the surgery, he was given Heparin and suffered a ‘HIT’ which is an allergic reaction to the medicine. He lost so much blood, they didn’t expect him to survive.”
But Brandon is still fighting. He’s since been diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder which caused all the issues after his 2018 surgery. Today, he still has a blood clot in his portal vein, which carries blood from the intestine, pancreas and spleen to the liver. It’s in a critical area and can’t be ‘busted up’ or removed. It’s now a waiting game.
“Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. Our hope is that his body will start to create collateral veins, which are new pathways for the blood flow to go around the clot. This is a very rare thing that we are dealing with, but we just have to wait for his body to try to heal itself. The doctors are really amazed at his progress,” says Julie.
His treatment plan at this time is to get him stable enough that he can go home by the end of February to rest and heal. Meanwhile, he is out on medical leave from work and has nearly exhausted his vacation and sick time. A number of fundraisers are underway to help with medical expenses.
Friends have been selling ‘Brandon’s Warriors- Clear the Clot!’ shirts and have organized a benefit ride planned for Saturday, Feb. 29. The ride is hosted by the Rome Offroad (4×4) group, but it is open to anyone who wants to ride. The group will depart from Sam’s Burger Deli restaurant at 8:30 a.m. and ride up to Coppinger’s Cove in Tennessee. Click here for details:
In addition, an online fund-raiser has been set up to help. Just over $2,400 has been raised so far. Details
Brandon’s also receiving a lot of support and encouragement from his fellow co-workers, as well as from the Rome city commissioners and administrative staff. Supporters have sent photos to the Coryeas showing their ‘Brandon Strong’ poses.
“As with all of our City of Rome employees, their well-being is very important to us. We hope Brandon finds strength with each new day and we wish him a speedy recovery,” says Kristy Childre, Human Resources Director for City of Rome.