Soldier Battles for Second Chance
Chris Cochrane always had a spirit of perseverance. Serving for the Air Force Special Operations Command, he was no stranger to finding solutions and overcoming obstacles. But in the summer of 2013, Chris faced the most challenging battle in his life thus far: staying alive.
During a deployment in Germany, Chris became sick and immediately sought medical attention when he returned to Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. Doctors could not pinpoint what was wrong, questioning everything from acid reflux to the flu. After over a month of hospital visits and seeing a wide range of specialists, he still had no definitive diagnosis.
It wasn’t until Chris was rushed to the emergency room when it was determined that he had bacterial endocarditis, an infection that entered his blood stream and settled in his heart valve. Following this diagnosis, he had two strokes, after which he was airlifted by ShandsCair to UF Health in Gainesville.
The UF Health heart and vascular and neuromedicine teams worked together to make sure Chris’ care was being precisely managed from all sides. After being stabilized, Chris underwent three surgeries to help recover his brain and heart. UF Health neurosurgeons, who specialize in stroke care, performed lifesaving brain surgery. Cardiothoracic surgeons removed and replaced the infected heart valve.
Chris and his wife, Ashley, who are avid Auburn fans, are happy to make the five-hour drive to Gator Country for follow-up appointments.
“From the nurses, doctors, the surgeons, it has been amazing. UF Health is different, and it’s a higher level of care,” Chris said. “My health team now feels more like a family.”
Chris hasn’t stopped overcoming challenges. He spent three weeks at UF Health, before continuing with rehabilitation services where he gained back his speech and mobility. Since then, he has taken home three medals from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Warrior Games, a paralympic-style event for wounded, ill and injured service members.
Chris and Ashley are now looking toward the future, and have hopes of helping married wounded warrior couples like themselves. They find the greatest celebration of life is giving to others. They want to help those, who are going through similar experiences, find positivity and purpose, even in the most difficult situations.
At the UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital, our teams are committed to solving patients’ toughest problems. Through collaborative and highly specialized care, physicians, nurses and other clinicians work together to provide the most advanced options for heart, thoracic and neuro patients, through medicine, surgical intervention or a combination of both.
Visit UFHealth.org/BuiltAround for more information about these new facilities.