PIQUA — At the age of 54, and with no previous symptoms, Steve Hager of Piqua collapsed suddenly while shoveling snow last February.
“He fell over and had a heart attack,” his wife, Joan, said. “We had both shoveled snow earlier in the day and he decided to go back out and get the snow blower to clear it again.”
Steve came into his parents’ home and fell over with little warning. His preexisting conditions including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both controlled by medication.
Joan, who had taken a CPR class more than 20 years earlier, sprang into action, starting CPR on her unresponsive husband.
“Our daughter has seizures and at first I thought that was happening to him,” Joan said. “Then I thought he was choking. I remembered taking the class when our children were little when we put in a pool in the backyard.”
Amazingly, Joan remembered her CPR training and said she could immediately visualize her instructor from decades before, going over the steps to help save a life. She called 911 and began CPR immediately, with the 911 operator walking her through the steps.
“The squad came in about five minutes,” Joan said. “But it seemed a lot longer.” During that time, Joan kept her husband’s heart beating until emergency medical personnel arrived and shocked his heart back into rhythm. “The guys from the squad told me I had kept him going and as a result he hadn’t lost oxygen to his brain,” Joan said. “He wasn’t breathing when they arrived but they shocked him to get him going.”
Once the medics were able to assess the situation, they determined that Steve had indeed, suffered a heart attack and they immediately took him to Upper Valley Medical Center for treatment. Because the weather was bad and the snow continued to fall, Steve was not transported to another hospital right away. But eventually he arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton where he was immediately scheduled for double bypass surgery to clear two 99 percent blockages in his arteries. Doctors told Joan they weren’t certain how Steve had been able to walk around prior to his attack.
Steve was in the hospital for a full week, and never regained consciousness until 24 hours after he arrived. “His memory was fuzzy and he didn’t remember anything about the heart attack or coming to the hospital,” Joan said. “He had no idea why he was there.”
Eventually, most of Steve’s memory returned, although he still has no memory of being in the hospital before surgery. He began physical therapy and cardiac rehab at Upper Valley at 12 weeks post-surgery. “He did really well in rehab,” Joan said. “It did wonders for him.”
Steve, who works at Sidney Tool and Die as a project manager, remained off work for 12 weeks and started back to work in June. Today, he has few residual effects and Joan said the only thing that has changed is that he no longer smokes. “He hasn’t smoked since the day it happened,” Joan said. “He has never asked for another cigarette.”
Joan and Steve are continuing to work together to live a healthier lifestyle, including being more active and eating a healthy diet. But Joan is grateful that she knew enough about saving lives with CPR that she was able to step in when her husband needed her most.
“I think everyone should take a CPR class and become certified,” Joan said. “Anything can happen at any time – not just at home but also at the grocery or in the community. I think that having CPR or having knowledge of it helps a person not be so paralyzed when they see an emergency.”
Meet Joan and hear more about her story at the Go Red Goes North Luncheon at the Fort Piqua Plaza Hotel and Banquet Center on Sept. 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. To register or for more information, call 937-853-3102.