Country music star Randy Travis was awake and making progress Monday as he recovers from surgery following a stroke, his doctors said.
In a news release and video from the Texas hospital where the 54-year-old singer is recovering, doctors also gave a more detailed explanation for the health troubles, saying they were caused by scarring on his heart.
Doctors said Travis remains in critical condition and on a ventilator, but he has stabilized and is breathing spontaneously. His breathing support is gradually being reduced. He was interacting with his family and friends and has begun the early stages of physical therapy.
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Mary Davis, Travis' fiancee, thanked the singer's friends and fans for their prayers and support.
"I know that Randy feels each and every one of those," Davis said in the video. "He feels the hands of the doctors and the care of the nurses and the love of his fans. His friends and family have all been touched by that. He is responding well to voices and he sees and he understands. He's miles beyond where any of us thought he would be a few days ago."
Travis will stay at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano for two to three more weeks before being transferred somewhere else to undergo aggressive physical therapy. Doctors said it will take months to recover from the stroke, but scans shows the swelling in his brain caused by the event last Wednesday is subsiding following surgery to relieve pressure and he is making good progress in his recovery.
The Grammy Award-winning "Three Wooden Crosses" singer checked into the hospital on July 7 after a viral illness affected his heart. Doctors initially thought the virus caused congestive heart failure, but have since determined with a biopsy that Travis has scarring on his heart.
Dr. Michael Mack, a cardiac surgeon and medical director of cardiovascular disease at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, said the scarring has caused Travis' heart to become weak and require other devices to assist it to pump blood. He no longer needs a small pump inserted by catheter to help the heart control blood flow.
Mack said echocardiograms of Travis' heart to not indicate the scarring was caused by drug and alcohol abuse.
"Mr. Travis does have a family history of cardiomyopathy and it is more likely related to that," Mack said.
Travis has had troubles with alcohol recently and pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in January following an accident last August. He received two years of probation and a $2,000 fine. He was required to spend at least 30 days at an alcohol treatment facility and complete 100 hours of community service.
Before falling ill, he'd recently made several public appearances, including a spot on the Country Music Association Festival's nightly concert lineup and a poignant performance at George Jones' funeral.
Travis was admitted to Baylor Medical Center McKinney near his home in Tioga, about 60 miles north of Dallas, through the emergency room. He was transferred to The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano after doctors stabilized his heart with the pump. As his heart began to stabilize last Wednesday, doctors removed the pump and began to resuscitate Travis, Mack said. That was when he had the stroke.
The North Carolina-born Travis is a neo-traditional country purist known for hits "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "I Told You So." His 1986 Warner Bros. debut album "Storms of Life" sold 3 million copies, and helped return country music to the sound of Hank Williams and George Jones. It also made Travis and his mellow baritone a star, leading the way for other artists from Alan Jackson to "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery.
A transcript of the full video statement is below:
My name is Michael Mack. I’m a cardiac surgeon and the medical director of cardiovascular disease at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas.
I am joined by Dr. Erwin who is an intensivist at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano and Mary Davis who is the fiancée of Randy Travis.
We would like to update you as to Mr. Travis’ condition since our last statements early last week.
As events have occurred it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together. It’s been much clearer as to what events transpired and what Mr. Travis’ medical condition is.
On Sunday, July 7, he was admitted through the emergency room of Baylor McKinney hospital whereupon he was put on life support. He was then transferred here to The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano for a higher level of support.
For the first 48 hours after transfer he required mechanical devices to support his circulation and his heart.
His heart did respond positively to that and after a 48-hour period of time we were able to wean him from that support.
During this period of time of resuscitation, he suffered a stroke. As a result of that stroke, pressure built up in his brain that required an emergency neurosurgical operation to relieve that pressure.
That operation was successful and Mr. Travis has awakened since that operation.
In terms of putting together the sequence of medical events, we were concerned initially that he had acute viral myocarditis as a cause of this.
As we’re able to put the pieces of the puzzle together, he did suffer an acute viral illness over the past three weeks, but that seems to have tipped over a more chronic condition.
He has what’s called idiopathic cardiomyopathy, which means he has scarring of his heart muscle that is causing his heart to be weak and not able to support his circulation without help of either medical devices of medication.
We performed a biopsy of his heart muscle and it shows scar tissue. It does not show active infection. From the appearance on echocardiograms, which are images of his heart, this is not the appearance of either drugs or alcohol causing the heart condition.
Mr. Travis does have a family history of cardiomyopathy and it is more likely related to that.
At the current time, Mr. Travis’ condition is stabilized and I would like to turn to Dr. Erwin for a further update.
Thank you. As Dr. Mack mentioned previously, Mr. Travis is no longer requiring any mechanical devices that help support his heart. He does remain on intravenous medications to help support his heart, but we are decreasing the doses of those everyday and actually beginning to start him on oral medications which he will use long term to help support his heart.
As a result of his heart condition, acutely, and the stroke, he was put on a ventilator to help him breathe during his hospitalization. He remains on that, but we are decreasing that support daily.
He is breathing spontaneously with the help of the ventilator and hope to have him weaned off of that very soon breathing completely on his own.
In terms of his stroke, he has responded well to the surgical procedure he had to relieve the pressure in his brain. We’re seeing improvements in brain scans showing decreased swelling of his brain. He is awake and alert interacting with his family and friends and beginning to start doing some early physical therapy.
We do anticipate that he will need to stay here at The Heart Hospital for another two to three weeks to stabilize his heart during which time we will begin aggressive physical therapy. After he is discharged from here, we anticipate transfer to an inpatient facility where can receive aggressive physical therapy. We anticipate it will take months to recover from the stroke.
I would now like to ask Mary Davis, Randy’s fiancée, to say a few words. Mary.
Thank you. First and foremost, I just want to thank the friends, the family, the outpouring of love and affection that has shown up at the hospital and at home and through several different avenues of support.
I know that those are prayers that have helped mend his heart along with the skilled hands of the physicians and doctors and nurses here at The Heart Hospital of Baylor Plano.
I know that Randy feels each and every one of those. He feels the hands of the doctors and the care of the nurses and the love of his fans. His friends and family have all been touched by that. He is responding well to voices and he sees and he understands. He’s miles beyond where any of us thought he would be a few days ago.
It’s heart-warming to see that we have such a strong person under there that’s willing to fight with us. We all know now that we had greatness to work with. We ask for your continued support. I know that Randy will be so touched by that when he understands the magnitude of it all.
So thank you and I appreciate everything everybody has done here at the hospital to give us the outcome that we’ve received. With the understanding now in retrospect that this could have occurred anywhere at any time. We were in the finest place we could be to have the best outcome that we could ever have. Thank you.
Although Mr. Travis is still in critical condition, it has stabilized. We do not anticipate significant changes on a daily basis, but we will keep you informed as his condition improves.
AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard in Washington contributed to this report.