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Barge party scheduled to help raise funds for Harvey and wife Kerri

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Apr 14, 2021

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

Gary Harvey and Kerri Lynn are a music duo known very well on Pine Island as Gary and Kerri. In addition to sharing their love for and gift in the art of music, they have been married for 17 years. In November of last year, at only 54 years of age, Gary suffered a pulmonary embolism in the middle of a music gig and was clinically dead for almost an hour.

“Once he collapsed he was taken by ambulance to Bay Front in Port Charlotte,” said Lynn. “His heart stopped for almost an hour.”

After having been cooled under a hypothermia blanket for so long to preserve brain and muscle tissue, Lynn said, the doctors were concerned that when Harvey came back he wouldn’t resume normal brain function.

“When I got to the hospital I had no idea what had happened to him,” said Lynn. “They told me that they couldn’t get his pulse back. The floor fell out beneath me once that registered. It seemed like I sat there forever until they finally got his pulse back.”

Harvey remained in an induced coma for more than 2 1/2 weeks, where Lynn said, his body and coloring appeared completely normal to her, but when they finally pulled him out of the coma, she could see the toll his journey had taken on him. His heart began to fail and he was put on maximum life support, where all the blood in his body was cleaned, oxygenated and replaced.

“Since his heart could hardly move and his lungs were in jeopardy, he needed to be on maximum life support,” said Lynn. “It was their last resort, because if they can’t fix you while you’re on maximum life support, they take you off and you die.”

According to Lynn, as the doctors were trying desperately to ensure Harvey’s recovery, he was living in an alternate reality and would not be able to recall the things that were happening outside his mind and body.

“When you go that far down for that long and come back the way he did, there is pain in the entire body, so he had to be on a lot of medication,” Lynn said.

The biggest question for the doctors at that point, said Lynn, was whether he would respond at all, as he still had blood clots in his lungs. When they did a mental acuity check, however, he responded to most commands, such as being able to raise his eyebrows or squeeze someone’s hand.

“That was good enough for the heart doctor,” said Lynn. “The heart doctor said had Gary not responded they would have let him go.”

Lynn recalls the nurses telling her that her husband’s recovery would likely be a long, slow process, causing her to wonder what they’d meant by that. It wasn’t long before she realized the lengthy process they would undergo as Harvey was put on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation).

According to Uscfhealth.org., the ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung by-pass machine used in open-heart surgery. It pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

Lynn said the outreach from the community during Harvey’s recovery was amazing as neighbors mowed their lawn and cleaned their pool, making her feel as though she had her own staff.

“I would come home and the house had been cleaned and there would be dinner on the table,” said Lynn.

Although his recovery has indeed been a slow process, even with the help of physical therapy, Lynn says Harvey went from hardly being able to stand during a shower to walking two miles a day. Playing guitar is still very difficult, as rapid chord changes require a great degree of dexterity in the fingers, which Harvey is still working toward.

“Gary wasn’t expected to live, so right now each day is a complete gift,” said Lynn.

On April 18, Jim Frock of Sandbar Productions is orchestrating a barge party to raise funds for Gary and Kerri, who have had no income since Gary’s pulmonary embolism.