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Miracles and medicine combine at Cache Valley Hospital Emergency Room

Jerry has been treated for not one, but two heart attacks at Cache Valley Hospital. Each time in the ER, he's found fast, lifesaving care.

December 11, 2020
Jerry Olsen smiles while wearing a blue and white plaid button-up shirt and suspenders.

Jerry Olsen, 84, knew what a heart attack felt like — he lived through one in 2011. On that occasion, Gennie, his bride of 66 years, thought he was kidding when he announced he was having a heart attack (he’s quite the joker). Yet one look at his face and she realized he was serious. So, she helped him to the car and raced to the nearby Emergency Room at Cache Valley Hospital. In fact, Gennie sped there so quickly that a policewoman pulled her over. Of course, once aware of the situation, the policewoman led her the rest of the way to the hospital that changed their lives — and hearts — for the better.

Having close-to-home emergency care and a speedy arrival proved vital to Jerry’s health — and those same elements proved essential to his survival of a second, stronger heart attack

On the day of his second heart attack, which occurred in January 2019, Jerry had been snow blowing the driveway before he came indoors and announced to Gennie, “You might think I’m crazy, but I think I’m having another heart attack.”

Gennie didn’t waste any time.

“I said, ‘Let’s get the heck out of here!’ and away we went to Cache Valley Hospital Emergency Room — again,” Gennie remembers.

It’s a good thing they arrived quickly. During the initial physical assessment, Jerry sat on the exam table when his body experienced a sudden, severe change.

“We had just gotten there, and the doctor was starting to check him, when Jerry turned and looked directly at me and said, ‘Gennie I don’t have any more pain.’ Just one second later, his eyes rolled up, he fell backward, and he was gone,” Gennie said.

Jerry’s heart had stopped beating

Immediately, a flood of highly trained emergency professional rushed into the room to perform CPR. They began a steady, strong rhythm of chest compressions in attempt to resuscitate Jerry — and they did kept it up, even when Jerry showed no sign of reviving.

“Eventually, the doctor came to me and said, ‘Gennie, I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but we can only work on Jerry for 30 minutes. If he doesn’t come around by then, we either do life support or let him go.’ I told him that at our age, we’ve talked about this sort of situation and we both desire to be let go,” Gennie said.

The CPR team continued their efforts and the minutes slowly ticked by. Then, the doctor returned with news.

“He came out just grinning,” Gennie said. “The doctor told me that Jerry must have been listening, because at 29 minutes they got a heartbeat and a pulse. It was just a miracle.”

This would be the first of a string of miracles. Only a few minutes later, Jerry’s heart stopped beating again. After 17 more minutes of CPR, it rallied. But after a few minutes, Jerry’s heart stopped beating yet again. After 14 more minutes of CPR, his heartbeat started up — and this time it stabilized.

Cache Valley Hospital Emergency Room is a Level IV trauma center, meaning the physicians and nurses have specialized training in evaluating, diagnosing and stabilizing traumatic injuries. They provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that Logan community members can access expert care and compassionate service right away

Once the Cache Valley emergency team stabilized Jerry’s heart, they collaborated with AirMed to transport Jerry by helicopter to the University of Utah, where he underwent emergency surgery for placement of a stent in his blocked artery.

“When the doctor came out of surgery to talk with me in the waiting room, he said, ‘This guy is a walking miracle! When anyone has a massive heart attack like this, they’re out of it for two or three days — and this guy is already laughing and joking with me.’ I told him that’s very normal for my sweet husband,” Gennie said.

In addition to opening Jerry’s artery with a stent, the surgeon also placed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to detect and stop future abnormal heartbeats. The device constantly monitors Jerry’s heartbeat and can deliver electrical pulses to restore a normal rhythm when necessary.

After a few days in the hospital recovering from surgery, Jerry transitioned into a rehabilitation center in Logan where he spent approximately three months regaining physical and cardiac strength.

Looking back — how a heart attack can buoy up hearts

Although Jerry wasn’t alert during the incident, he has spent significant time pondering the impact of the medical professionals who saved his life that day within Cache Valley Hospital Emergency Room.

“I don’t remember a whole lot, but I know these people took care of me. They could have moved on, they could have given up, but they didn’t,” Jerry said. “No matter what profession we’re in, we can all go the extra mile — and these doctors and nurses did just that! I guess there just wasn’t any room for me Upstairs, and they figured they’d keep me on earth.”

In addition to benefiting Jerry’s life and outlook, the extraordinary experience of restoring Jerry’s heartbeat also impacted members of the emergency team at Cache Valley Hospital

“I went back to the Cache Valley Emergency room a few months later, and the same doctor was there,” Gennie recalled. “He came and said to us, ‘I want you two to know something. I want you to know that the situation with Jerry was the greatest miracle I’ve had in all the year’s I’ve practiced medicine.’ I’ve learned from this just how fortunate we are to be at the right place and at the right time. Sometimes we wonder why this is all going on, but there are so many miracles that come our way. We are so fortunate.”

December 11, 2020
Cache Valley Hospital

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