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Your Healthy Family: The critical moments and decisions that saved a life during a heart attack

Posted at 4:06 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 18:06:24-05

WOODLAND PARK — In this Your Healthy Family, we're talking about getting a second chance at life - something a Woodland Park couple tells me they don’t take granted.

In January of 2022, 68-year-old Mike Welch tells me he knew he wasn't getting around as easily as he's use to. But it was something easy to dismiss, especially living at almost 9,000 feet elevation in the shadows of Pikes Peak.

Mike says, “I would get winded going downstairs or coming back up or something like that. The scary part (looking back) is not having signs or symptoms of pain from a heart attack.”

One key to surviving a heart attack can be knowing when to be seen by a doctor – a decision Mike and his wife, Lezlee, made early in the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.

Lezlee recalls, “We went to bed, and he woke me up around 3 a.m.” Mike says, “In my mind, it was stupid at 3 a.m. in the morning to wake her. I wasn't feeling that bad, there wasn't any severe pain in my chest or anything. But something wouldn't just let me lay there and go back to sleep, so I went in and said, ‘I don't feel right.’”

Not feeling “right” doesn’t sound too urgent, but for some reason it struck a chord with Lezlee. “The word ‘right’ didn't sound right coming from him. It clued me in that something was terribly wrong.”

Mike also says a thought continued crossing his mind - something his daughter-in-law had said to him a few weeks earlier when they were talking about heart attack symptoms. “My daughter-in-law is a nurse and she had said something that rang my ears. She said, ‘You know you don't wanna mess around, just go get checked out.’ So I thought I'd go get checked out and they would give me a pill or a shot or something I'll be right back home.”

So in the middle of the night Mike and Lezlee were out the door. Lezlee says, “My response was, ‘OK, get in the car we're going to the hospital.’ He got himself in the car, he was walking, talking, everything was fine. As we drove down through the neighborhood, the fire station is right there and he said, ‘go faster.’ I said, ‘why don't I just pull into the fire station?’ and he said, ‘no i want to go to the hospital.’ When we turned onto Highway 24 again, he said ‘drive faster.’

As they pulled up to the emergency department at UCHealth Pikes Peak Regional Hospital, Mike’s condition began to change. Lezlee says, “As we got to the door of the emergency department he opened the car door turned and put his feet on the concrete and then just slumped over.”

That’s where Mike says his memory of that night ends. “I remember her shaking the door at the hospital or the emergency room, and that's it.”

Meanwhile, Lezlee says she knew the situation had gone from bad to worse. “I managed somehow to get him out of the car and into the emergency room, and that’s when he lost consciousness. I was hysterical and screaming and the waiting room is so quiet at 3 a.m. but the staff immediately started coming out, and within 30 seconds he was in a wheelchair and they were taking him back to a treatment room.”

That's when emergency medicine physician Dr. Miguel Sandoval enters the story. Dr. Sandoval recalls, “Peg, who was one of the nurses on duty, called out and said, ‘Dr. Sandoval I need you here.’”

Dr. Sandoval says one look at Mike told him all he needed to know. “You looked at him and he was pale, he did not look well - he looked dead.”

In our next story, the fight to save Mike's life begins in the emergency room at Pikes Peak Regional Hospital and continues at UCHealth Memorial Central in Colorado Springs.

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