To save one life is as if to save the world.

- The Talmud

Spring Break Nearly Broke Her

Patricia Harris, Whitsett, NC – 51 at time of event (2010)

Patricia & Ricky Harris

April fools day is not the time to fool around with a heart attack. Not if you live out in the country. And not if you're a Grandmother. Alas, Patricia didn't realize she was suffering a complete blockage of her LAD artery. In men it's called a "widow maker".

A few days before, Patricia's arms had felt sore.
"Like I had been moving furniture!" she said. But she hadn't. She also felt a little out of breath and dizzy.

Earlier in the day Patricia had gone to the movies with her Granddaughter, who was home for spring break, without incident. But now she knew that something was wrong.
"Suddenly I felt weak, like I was going to pass out. I had this enormous feeling of doom, like something is very bad," she said quietly.

Patricia called Ricky, her husband, thinking he'd be at work. But, he was just around the corner feeding the neighbor's animals. He came home immediately and took Patricia to the local hospital - about 15 miles down the highway. Once she had been attended to in the ER, Ricky went out to park the car. He came back and was told Patricia had collapsed and was unresponsive and they were doing CPR. The Chaplin was called.
"They gave me nine shocks and four rounds of code drugs and wanted to send me down to Duke [hospital]," Patricia said.

Normally it takes around an hour to drive the thirty-five miles, but the ambulance made it door-to-door in 45 mins. They also began the RACE* program on the way in, including the therapeutic hypothermia protocol. As soon as they arrived Patricia was wheeled into the cath lab and immediately underwent angioplasty where the "widow maker" was found.

Unfortunately, Patricia did suffer some damage to her brain, due to a lack of oxygenated blood flow during her heart attack.
"They said I was down for 12 minutes. I had a lot of trouble focussing [when she awoke form the induced coma] and it's hard for me now to do things like reading, and [spoken] words come out wrong," Patricia explained.

Short term memory is a stil problem for her, particularly visual events.
"I am better, two years in and I'm so much better than I was. If you tell me something I'll remember it, but if I see something I won't remember I saw it!" She said with a giggle. "I miss reading a lot. I try to read, but I have no idea what I just read!"

She's going to try books on tape to see if that helps.

Finally, there is one more fascinating element to this story; Patricia's dreams are hard to discern from reality. It maybe due to her visual memory issues, but she finds her dreams pick up where her consciousness leaves off. This seems like a marvelous way of making your life turn out the way you want it to!

-Jeremy Whitehead

*RACE - Reperfusion of Acute Myocardial Infarction in Carolina Emergency Departments is a project designed to provide the fastest care to heart attack patients eligible for potentially lifesaving artery-opening therapy. The reperfusion therapies include clot-dissolving drugs, blood thinners, and ultimately angioplasty -- a surgical procedure that uses slender catheters carrying balloons and stents to prop open blocked vessels.