Being in the right place at the right time
Surviving a heart attack on the job depends a lot on where it happens, who is there how they react, and how fast you get help

By Gary William Carr, OOIDA Life Member
Wayne, Maine

It is my belief that God sent my guardian angels to IFH/Performance Food Service earlier this year when a total blockage of the heart’s left anterior descending artery brought me to my knees as I walked outside their facility in Florence, S.C.

I fell to the ground with severe chest pain and sweating I had never experienced before, and some employees ran to my aid.

A special thanks to Marion Ford, director of operations along with employees Chuck Freedman and Frederick Green. Their fast assessment of my condition and calling 911 put a chain of events into effect that saved my life.

It was Aug. 5 and I had just finished separating freight, received a clean bill of lading, and had walked outside to a hot muggy South Carolina day when I felt nauseated and began to sweat. I sat down briefly and then decided to go to my truck. I only made 15-20 more feet when I was brought down with severe chest pain.

There was no warning anything was wrong that might cause a heart attack. The IFH employees stepped in by giving me aspirin, keeping me lying down, and calling 911.  

Within minutes an ambulance appeared and I got on the gurney. An EKG was performed and was forwarded to the hospital by radio on the 10-minute ride to McLeod Hospital in Florence.

My condition was considered so critical that only blood was taken in the emergency room and away I went to the critical care operating table. The CAT scan showed the bottom of the heart was totally black with no blood flow.

I met Dr. Vitt Leng, cardiologist, who administered a pain medicine to the groin area. The doctor inserted a heart catheterization instrument in the groin. Within minutes the pain started to subside and the image on the screen was showing life had been restored to the dead area of the heart. A second area showed concern and another stent was installed.

I carry four years of medical records on the truck. These were of great value both in the operating room and in supplying a complete medical record to a hospital where I was a stranger. I highly recommend all drivers carry some medical records because they help the doctors and nurses. My heart was repaired in the 45-minute period of time the state of South Carolina requires to reduce heart damage.

I learned that a heart attack does not mean consciousness is lost. The chest pain is unbelievable. Time is of the essence to avoid heart damage. The use of stitches are passe and glue is the new norm. Many individuals will be involved in your recovery. Because of these dedicated individuals, I was able to walk around within

18 hours of the operation and left the hospital in two days.

Carrying medical records does make a difference to all those who are helping in your recovery. LL

Editor’s note: Gary Carr is an OOIDA life member from Wayne, Maine. He bought his first truck and trailer in 1994 and has always worked as an independent owner-operator. He has worked moving frozen seafood between Seattle and Boston. He has degrees in criminology and in business administration from California State University - Long Beach and New Hampshire College; he also has a Ph.D. in economics from Union Institute. He serves as a member of the OOIDA Board of Directors.