Jeff’s Story

700 Miles from Home, Long Haul Trucker Gets Life-Saving Treatment for Heart Attack

Jeff and Rita Colvin

On the morning of October 2, 2017, Jeff Colvin awoke with pain in his chest. The long-haul driver from Alabama had spent the night in his 18-wheel semi tractor-trailer at an Austinburg, Ohio truck stop before heading out for another full day on the road. Initially, the 56-year old attributed the pain to indigestion, but when he began sweating and feeling nauseous, he knew it was serious. So he called 9-1-1.

First responders arrived at the truck stop in just a few short minutes and transported Jeff to University Hospitals Geneva Medical Center, where physicians determined that he was having a heart attack. From there, Jeff was transported via LifeFlight helicopter to University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, where Ankur Kalra, MD, an interventional cardiologist with University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, was waiting for him.

“When Jeff arrived, he was very sick,” said Dr. Kalra. “His coloring was ashen, which is often the case with STEMI.”

ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries is blocked. Tests indicated that Jeff’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery was 100 percent blocked – a condition so deadly that it is often referred to as a “widow-maker.”

Just 35 minutes from the time Jeff arrived at UH Cleveland Medical Center, Dr. Kalra had inserted a stent into his artery to restore blood flow. The lifesaving procedure involves threading a tiny balloon covered with wire mesh through an artery to the location of the blockage. The balloon is inflated, expanding the wire mesh and locking it in place while at the same time pushing aside artery-blocking plaque. Then, the balloon is removed, allowing blood to flow freely through the artery.

While Jeff was en route to UH Cleveland Medical Center, a nurse from UH Geneva Medical Center called his wife, Rita.

“I received the phone call that no wife wants to receive,” Rita said, when she was told that her husband of 32 years had suffered a heart attack that morning. In 12 hours, she and their daughter Chelsea made the 700-plus mile trip to Cleveland from Oxford, Ala. to be by Jeff’s side.

“When I arrived, my husband was resting comfortably in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU),” said Rita. “Dr. Kalra spent time with us explaining the procedure and showing us before and after photos. He told us that another of Jeff’s major vessels (left circumflex artery) was 80 percent blocked requiring a second stent.” Rita continued, “Dr. Kalra made me feel so comfortable I requested that he do that procedure as well.”

After two heart catheterizations in four days, Jeff and his family left Cleveland to go home to Alabama. Dr. Kalra texted the family several times throughout the trip to check on Jeff’s condition and to ensure they were safe. He also personally contacted Jeff’s local cardiologist to provide details that would help ensure continuity of care.

“I am still in awe of the love and care shown to us by Dr. Kalra,” said Rita. “I can honestly say I have never met a doctor more compassionate and more dedicated to his patients. I would be remiss not to mention how wonderful everyone was at the hospital. The entire staff in the CICU eased our minds, and like we say in Alabama, “took us in,” and made us feel loved.” Rita concluded, saying, “If this had to happen, I know that God had Jeff in the right place. I don’t believe he’d be here if he had the heart attack while he was home. You are all angels to us…God bless you all!”

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