Every year for the last four years, around the first part of June and Christmas time, Bill Price brings treats and a Thank You card to the ER and Cardiac Rehab staff at IMH. Bill is always happy to tell his story of how IMH saved his life to anyone who has never heard it! He invariably starts with “I thought I was indestructible! I was a tree cutter!”
June 2nd, 2014 felt like any other day for Bill, trimming trees in the backyard at his home in Onarga – something he had done his entire life, just like his father before and his son after. Little did he know it would become a day he would never forget.
Bill took a break when his wife Debbie came home to make lunch – he even remembers it was a BLT sandwich – and he felt fine. As he headed back outside to finish the tree trimming, an old friend called him up to discuss some business. They spent a little time catching up, talking, and commented on how they hadn’t seen each other in a while – ending the call with “Love you, Bill ~ I love you too Ryan.”
It was shortly after the phone call ended that Bill started feeling “not right”. He walked inside to use the restroom, moving slowly, and Deb asked if he was alright . He didn’t quite make it to the bathroom and sat down on bed. Debbie heard him groan and walked into the room to see him drenched in sweat. She often reads medical books and just knew something wasn’t right.
He went out to the deck to “get some air” – maybe that would help – while Debbie went to retrieve her blood pressure cuff. Bill’s son walked by the deck and even from a distance noticed something was off, asking “Are you alright Dad?” The only thing Bill could respond was “Well, I don’t know”. Debbie returned and took his blood pressure getting a scary number of 240/40! Bill’s ex-wife was a nurse at IMH at the time, so Debbie called her to explain what was going on – she immediately suggested calling an ambulance.
Bill remembers the ambulance arriving at his house, he told EMTs “I can walk..” and walked over and sat on the cot. As they pushed his cot into the ambulance, the last thing he remembers is looking at Debbie, giving her a thumbs up, and telling her “I love you. See you in Watseka.” His next memory is waking up at the hospital 5 days later, with no idea what was going on. The rest of his story was filled in by the nurses, doctors, and his family.
In addition to his connection to IMH through his ex-wife, his mother-in-law had been in and out of the hospital, as well as many other family and friends – so, he knows the staff at IMH quite well. As the story was recounted to him by people who were present, they said he was coherent when he arrived at the ER. He was joking and laughing with them. When Dr. Shah came in the room, he began with standard procedure and asked Bill to state his name. Bill gave his name and collapsed. The doctor and staff sprung into action. The story goes – Dr. Shah called the Code Blue, “hit him in the chest” a couple of times, and then ventilated him. His wife Debbie had just arrived and was completing the registration when the Code Blue was called, and “just knew” it was Bill.
Protocol entails that when a Code Blue is called, essential personnel are to report to the location to provide assistance. No one has ever confirmed how long he was out.. but he has been told that they performed continuous CPR and shocked him a total of 6 times to restart his heart. (Nurses that have known Bill for years will often come up and joke with him saying “I got to shock you!”) His heart had not completely stopped but it had an abnormal heart rhythm. Because of how long he was unconscious, the ER staff weren’t sure how much of his mind would be left. Many times people come back after things like this and they are never the same.
He doesn’t remember but he did come to after his heart was shocked back into proper rhythm. He opened his eyes, looked at the nurse, and reached up for her and said “Oh babe” – Bill is known for calling everyone “hun” or “babe” – this nurse had known Bill for many years and with that simple phrase she breathed a sigh of relief and told everyone “He’s gonna be ok. Bill is still in there” and said to let him rest. Once he was fully stabilized, Bill was transferred to a trauma center.
Bill woke up feeling weak, tired, and disoriented. Although he already knew he’d had a heart attack, he was still shocked when the doctor gave him the news – “You died!” Relaying as much of the information as he could, he told Bill that his heart attack occurred within the first 4-5 minutes of arriving at IMH. Had he not called the ambulance and headed to IMH when he did, he may not be here today. Bill had a 100% blockage in his heart, often referred to as the widowmaker. Later when Bill had the opportunity to talk to and thank Dr. Shah he told Bill that in his 30 years of being an Emergency Department doctor, Bill was only the 7th patient to come back from a widowmaker heart attack. He added, had it happened 10 minutes earlier while he was still in the ambulance, Bill probably would not have survived.
Not long after surgery, Bill began attending Cardiac Rehab. His first day he walked for 3 minutes on the treadmill and could barely move. He began to feel defeated. Here he was, a man who never went to the doctor, never took any medicine – who now felt like he was done. That same day one of the patients in Rehab must have noticed his struggle, approached him, and started making conversation. “So, what happened to you” and Bill hung his head and explained. The patient’s response snapped Bill out of it, he said “Get to the back of the line, son – everyone in here has been through the same thing or worse.” From then on, Bill says he stopped feeling sorry for himself and over the next few weeks between hearing from other patients’ success stories and the support from the Cardiac Rehab nurses, Bill finally began to have hope. Bill has since graduated Cardiac Rehab Phase II. However, he still chooses to attend twice a week in Cardiac Rehab Phase III as a means to staying fit and healthy. He laughs as he refers to Cardiac Rehab as “the best club in the world – family – but the initiation to get in is tough.”
Bill Price has always been in the front of the line advocating for the importance of IMH in our communities. Whether it’s his story of how IMH saved his life, the way he talks about the care his mother-in-law received, how many of his loved ones who have been saved by IMH, or his love of the great staff – he always has something nice to say about our little hospital. We are so grateful that we were there in his time of need!