DANVILLE — Surviving a heart attack is one thing, but to beat an issue to the left anterior descending (LAD) artery is something to write home about for sure.
This is exactly what David Barkley, a Danville firefighter, did last year as he overcame 100 percent blockage of the artery, an incident that is referred to as the “widow maker.”
After leaving his part-time shift at the Danville Fire Department, station 92, Barkley was headed home when he began experiencing pain in his chest.
”When I left, I started having just a little bit of pain,” Barkley said. “I thought when I got home, I’d take a couple aspirins. By the time that I got to the next light, I knew that it was more than I could take care of with a couple of aspirins.”
The next decision Barkley and doctors credit for saving his life. He elected to drive back to the station and see medics Dan Chubbs and Adam Herfert. The pair gave Barkley four baby aspirins and a nitroglycerin spray, before taking him to Hendricks Regional Health.
”The doctor in the ER told my fire chief, Mark Morgan, that if I would have went home, I wouldn’t have made it,” Barkley said.
After arriving at HRH, Barkley was under the care of Dr. Mark Tomkins. However, he was undergoing some strange feelings.
”At that time, I kind of felt like I was checking out,” Barkley said. “I was starting to fade away, I guess ... That’s when I thought that I wish that my grandsons would remember me.”
With this, Tomkins and his team took action. Barkley was transferred to the St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana with the StatFlight Helicopter that is at HRH 24/7.
”I was also told that if they had to drive me to the heart center, instead of flown me, I wouldn’t have made it,” Barkley said. “Clearly, I am a testimony to (the HRH) helicopter.”
At the heart center, Barkley received a heart cath. He said that as soon as they allowed him to walk soon after, he was up and about.
However, there was another obstacle for Barkley, who was eager to see his son get married a week later on the other side of the country.
”I had my heart attack on a Saturday and my son was getting married the next Saturday,” Barkley said. “I was really wanting to go ... They checked me out late on Tuesday and that night we went home, loaded up the car, and headed to Maryland. I went to Maryland and a week to the day, I was sitting in that church, watching my son get married.”
The key to survival and recovery in Barkley’s case was the speed that they dealt with it. It was around two hours from when he felt his first pain until he received his heart cath. Barkley said that he has one stint, but had no muscle damage at all to his heart.
Barkley was only 53 when he suffered his heart attack. Going through this has changed his outlook on life.
”I knew at that moment that there had to be a life change,” Barkley said. “You just can’t go back to doing the same things, or you’ll end up in the same place.”
Barkley went through the cardiac rehab, utilized a dietitian, and changed his eating patterns. He has lost 65 pounds and eight inches to his waist since October.
”I had size 42 tech pants for the fire department, and now I bought 34,” Barkley said. “For the first time ever, I can say I weigh less than when I got my driver’s license and be right.”