Max Huestis was a rugged, healthy-looking young man, just 44 years old, when he unexpectedly died from a severe heart attack on August 13, 2009. The impact of his death affected many. He was a husband, father, son, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle and good friend.
His wife, Stephanie, can readily recite the details of that day—their last phone conversation before he headed to the gym and how she was first notified by a colleague who was coincidentally at BMH when Max was brought in to the Emergency Room. She remembers the compassion with which the ER staff delivered the news to her and their son, Oliver, as well as other family members who had gathered there. Stephanie said the ER staff had tried to resuscitate him for quite some time. Max’s parents, Yudah and Bill Huestis, agreed saying “the ER staff exhausted themselves and had to keep relieving one another.” But it was not to be.
Months later, a stack of sympathy cards sits on the table in front of Corinne Bristol, Max’s aunt. They represent a small fraction of the total sent to her brother and his wife after the loss of their son. The white space of nearly every card is filled with handwritten remembrances of Max. Other cards arrived with letters inserted. They came from friends of the family, but they also came from customers who got to know Max as he worked alongside his father in the family business. They frequently spoke to his attention to detail, his work ethic and especially to his sunny disposition.
Of course, everyone in the family knew Max possessed a kind disposition. His effervescent personality was punctuated by his nearly perpetual contagious smile. But it seemed extraordinary to Corinne that his passing had touched so many so deeply and this provided added impetus to honor his life in a special way. “Max was special,” she said. “You always have the option of sending flowers or contributing to a charity. I wanted to do something special that would benefit others.”
Since Max had been brought to the Emergency Room, Corinne consulted with Dr. Christopher Schmidt, Emergency Department Director, for ideas. Dr. Schmidt told her about an ultrasound imaging device that could aid an emergency room physician’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients. Technology advances have made ultrasound equipment more portable and easier to operate while also improving image quality. Its use is widespread in other community hospitals around the country, and has been effective in a number of applications, from non-invasive diagnostics of acute life-threatening conditions to guiding invasive procedures in a way that improves patient safety. Contributing toward the purchase of this sounded like the perfect idea.
“We wanted something that could be of use to cardiac patients coming in to the ER. Dr. Schmidt said that while this device has a number of uses, it has a specific probe for the heart,” said Corinne, adding that the gift was made on behalf of her and her husband, Charlie, and their children, Aaron, Stacey and Jared. “While it wouldn’t have saved Max, hopefully it will help others.”
For Max’s wife Stephanie, and their 13-year-old son, Oliver, the gift of the portable ultrasound machine struck them as very appropriate given Max’s generous nature. “To know that something given in his name would continuously help others would have made him extremely proud” she said. “I greatly respect the commitment the Bristols have to the hospital, and the thoughtfulness behind this donation.”
Stephanie also hopes that Max’s story will help other young men by encouraging them to get routine physicals on a regular basis. As shocking as it was to lose her husband of nearly 20 years so suddenly, Stephanie was equally surprised to learn that Max had advanced heart disease at such a young age. “His death was 100% preventable to my understanding. Max was a rugged guy. He would go to the hospital for an injury, but he never would have labeled himself as unhealthy or unfit or sick,” she said. “The alternative is so much worse than a physical.”