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When Every Second Counts

Jim McLandsborough was an active 72-year-old. He enjoyed long bike rides, playing tennis and even competing against men 20 years his junior in spirited games of racquetball.

So the last thing he expected while working outside at his cabin on Lake Andrusia near the end of May 2013, was a heart attack. But when the sudden sharp pain in the middle of his chest hit, Jim immediately knew what it was.

“I stopped what I was doing, walked inside and took some aspirin,” Jim says. “Then I asked my wife to call 911 because I was having a heart attack.”

And for Jim, everything else after that became a blur. Every single second became crucial to his survival.

The emergency services team transported Jim from the lake cabin, located 15 miles southeast of Bemidji, by ambulance to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and the team quickly got to work.

“When Jim arrived at our hospital, he was already quite sick,” says Dr. Mohammad Jameel, interventional cardiologist at the Sanford Bemidji Heart and Vascular Center, which is connected to the medical center. “Not only was he having a heart attack, he was in cardiogenic shock, which is a very dangerous situation.”

Jim was immediately transported to the cardiac catheterization lab where Sanford’s team of experts went to work. Before the team could even perform the procedure, Jim went into ventricular tachycardia and then cardiac arrest.

This once strong, active man was in a vulnerable place with his health, but he was in good hands. Dr. Jameel and his team responded quickly and put their training and experience into action.

“We began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at that time, which proved successful for Jim,” Dr. Jameel says. “Once we were able to stabilize Jim, we performed the catheterization.”

It was then they discovered his left anterior descending artery, or more commonly known as the “widow maker,” was 99 percent blocked. With balloons and stents, the artery was opened, but Jim was still quite sick.

But it was the expert and compassionate team at Sanford that were determined to help Jim through it all. And they did.

“With Jim’s condition, the risk for complications was high,” says Dr. Jameel. “But getting blood flow restored as quickly as possible was the key to his survival.”

Jim spent six weeks in the hospital and then returned to his lake cabin to be near Sanford’s facility for follow-up visits. He required extensive therapy while in the hospital and after.

“I was extremely weak and I knew I had a significant recovery ahead of me,” Jim says. “But my lake house was the perfect place to recuperate and I was still close to Sanford if I needed help.”

And Jim firmly believes it was the proximity of Sanford Bemidji’s Heart and Vascular Center that saved his life.

“I do not think I would be alive to tell this story if that facility wasn’t there,” Jim says. “If I would have needed to be transported very far, I don’t think I would have been able to make the trip.”

And according to Dr. Jameel, Jim was probably right.

“If our facility wasn’t here, Jim probably would have been transported to Fargo, and time was of the essence,” says Dr. Jameel. “The sooner we can restore normal blood flow the better, and this would have delayed the process for Jim. That could have led to less than ideal results.”

Now Jim has returned to his full-time home in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, MN. He continues pushing himself and walks nearly every day, with the hopes of returning to a more active lifestyle.

“I know I was very sick, and I’m trying my very best,” he says. “But through it all – I am so grateful just to be alive.”

Posted Date: June 2014