ST. LOUIS — Michael and Teri McDermott are finally taking steps in a new direction.
"It has been crazy and a whirlwind,” said Teri McDermott.
A long and frightening journey brought them to Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis.
The McDermotts are from Seattle, but their active lifestyle was put on hold when Michael woke up a few months ago in excruciating pain.
"I had felt a little bit of pain in my rear flank,” recalled Michael McDermott. “And one night I went to bed and the pain started flaring up and it didn't stop."
Doctors did scans looking for kidney stones but instead found a cancerous tumor on his kidney, that later grew into his heart.
"That's a big problem,” said Dr. Adeel Khan. “If at any time a piece of it, is to break off, it can cause pretty much instant death."
He was in a sense, a ticking time bomb.
"We didn't even know if he would make it to St. Louis,” his wife said. "We had no idea. I literally asked, ‘Will he die?’ And they said, ‘We don't know. We can't tell you that.’ So, on the flight there, I just kept looking at him and going, 'are you breathing? Are you gonna make it?'"
They did make it, and days after arriving at Siteman, Michael McDermott was wheeled into surgery.
Keep in mind, this operation was so intricate, doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, said they couldn't do it and told them that Washington University surgeon Dr. Adeel Khan was his last, best hope.
"We had three teams working on him with cardiothoracic and urology and each one of us doing our part,” said Dr. Kahn.
There was no guarantee that Michael would ever wake up again, so the family took some comfort in knowing that just weeks before, his daughter Kennedy moved up her wedding, so Michael could walk her down the aisle.
"It was probably the hardest part of the whole thing,” Michael McDermott said through tears. “Knowing that she had to change everything around so that I could be there because they weren't sure how long I had, in a sense, you know."
Fast forward, and Michael McDermott just got word – he's going home for the holidays.
"I think in his case, everything went exactly as we had planned,” said Dr. Kahn. "Exactly as how we had thought. And it was very smooth. We didn't lose much blood. He did really well, and the end result was really good."
The road to recovery still has bumps and cracks, Michael McDermott will still need chemotherapy to shrink the tumor but he's no longer a ticking time bomb.
"I think how blessed I am is what it comes down to it. I'm just blessed that I can be there for my kids and with my wife,” said Michael McDermott. "Dr. Khan extended my life."
The McDermotts said Dr. Kahn and his team are the greatest gift they could've hoped for this holiday season. And thanks to them, they're headed home to celebrate old traditions and new beginnings.