Giving thanks for every heart beat

Her family has happily excused Linda Haile from preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year. Less than a month ago, she was in a coma after a severe heart attack.

"We're celebrating with my nephew and his wife in Peoria this year. They said, 'Please come and please don't bring anything.' This Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning for me and my family," Linda said.

Linda credits God, her neighbor Mary Griffith and Carle Heart and Vascular Institute for saving her life. "If one of those components was missing, I wouldn't be here today," she said. Linda retired from Carle in May after 38 years. She was just getting used to retirement and spending time traveling, being with family and enjoying the outdoors.

She remembers October 30 very well.

"It was 70-degrees and my neighbor and I were working in our yards," Linda recalled. Linda's husband Mike Haile was traveling out of town with their son Christopher. Mike and Linda’s daughter, Jennifer, lives across town.

"I felt some back pain. I didn't think much of it," the longtime nurse practitioner said. "The pain was two or three on a scale of 10 so I thought I overdid yard work. Mary said I didn't look so good, so I sat down to rest.

"I knew something was wrong when I started sweating uncontrollably."

Griffith suggested calling an ambulance but Linda didn't think it was necessary. "I was in denial at that point," Linda said.

Griffith drove Linda to the Carle emergency room.

"They moved so fast in the ER. They hooked me up to the monitors. After reading the results, they told me I was having a heart attack," she said.

Linda's right coronary artery was 100-percent blocked. Providers moved her into the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where Falak Shah, MD, performed a coronary balloon angioplasty and placed stents in the blocked artery to restore function so the blood could flow better.

While Dr. Shah was placing the stents, Linda's heart stopped.

Dr. Shah recalled, "I directed the team to provide shocks, perform CPR, secure Linda's airway, and give medications as I was performing the coronary intervention. Linda was resuscitated and she pulled through. It was very challenging, but we all worked together. I still get an adrenaline rush thinking about it."

Nurse practitioner Linda who has interesting perspective having been a provider and now patient added, "I have the bruises on my chest that show the team did great CPR."

After the surgery, doctors put her into a medically induced cooling protocol that helped prevent neurologic damage.

"I was in a coma from Sunday afternoon until Tuesday afternoon. When I woke up, I finally learned what happened," Linda said.

Dr. Shah says Linda has a good prognosis. "She didn't suffer any brain damage and her heart is recovering well.”

Linda has started cardiac rehab, and looks forward to full recovery. "Every day I get up and I thank God. I don't take life for granted," she said.

“I also want to thank all of our family and friends for praying for me and helping my family when I was in a coma.”

 Linda is quick to point out that heart attack symptoms can be different for women. "I never had the classic ‘elephant sitting on your chest’ pressure that happens in men. If you don't feel right, call an ambulance and get to the hospital right away.”

Quick action helped save Linda’s life. As the Haile family sits down with loved ones this Thanksgiving, there will be new prayers of thanks that Linda is here.