Two months after a heart attack that nearly killed him, John Klimczak held a luncheon at the UConn Health Center to thank all those who helped treat and rehabilitate him.
“I’m upright, and not lying down, and that is largely due to you – not largely, 100 percent – due to you,” Klimczak, 48, told the doctors, nurses, and others involved in his care. “God’s amazing grace touched me on Oct. 12, in your hands. I am just beside myself.”
Oct. 12 was the day Klimczak felt pain in his left arm and chest and was taken by ambulance to John Dempsey Hospital. He was already in the emergency department when his heart stopped. He was unresponsive to CPR and defibrillation for more than a half-hour. With options nearly exhausted, a balloon pump was implanted in his leg in a desperate attempt to restore normal rhythm to his heart.
“It supported his heart enough to provide some electrical stability,” says Dr. Michael Azrin, the interventional cardiologist who would perform an angioplasty once heart rhythm was restored. “Remarkably, the resuscitation that was done was so effective that he’s unbelievably untouched by this event. It’s really gratifying.”
With his wife and two adolescent children, Klimczak brought a catered spread to the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center conference room Dec. 16, and showed a video montage of family, friends, and coworkers expressing their gratitude to his caregivers.
“They paddled me. Fifteen times. No response. This went on for, what I’m told, 35 minutes,” Klimczak told his guests, fighting back tears. “And if there’s nothing else I want to do, it’s convey my thanks for not stopping.”
He also presented framed plaques thanking the “true life savers,” and had custom key chains made that say “I saved a life.”
“Everybody in medicine helps people,” Azrin told the Klimczaks. “But there are few times in careers where you get such a palpable sense of appreciation of people and of how you truly do help, and I think it makes us all really aware of how much we help people.”