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In April 2010, on the verge of dying as his aorta was ripping apart, Kelly Coleman was flown to University Hospital by the Staff for Life Helicopter Service.

Coleman remembers looking out the windows of the helicopter as it rushed over Sedalia and the woodlands surrounding his town, toward University Hospital in Columbia. Afraid he wouldn’t survive, he thought, “I’m going to miss all of this.”

Upon his arrival at the hospital, Emergency Department staff rushed him off the helicopter even before the blades stopped turning. Soon, he was in the operating room with cardiothoracic surgeon Ajit Tharakan, MD, who spent more than 13 hours repairing Coleman’s aorta.

Coleman had 37 blood transfusions during the procedure. Afterward, he spent 10 days in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, recovering from his life-threatening experience.

“During my time in the hospital, the care was perfect,” Coleman said. “I could tell they genuinely cared about me as a person and that I made it through. They were intent on every word I said. It was like I was a family member.”

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