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Mother's Illness Helps Save Yet Another Heart Victim
Published March 2008
Jodi Vice, a dispatcher at Estes Express Lines, a trucking company in West Chester, is accustomed to thinking fast.
But she never thought that her quick thinking would save a life by recognizing the early warning symptoms of a heart attack.
"I just followed my gut instinct," she says.
Vice, 35, was the first to notice her co-worker, Scott Lewis, presenting signs of a heart attack while on the job.
She gained this heart health knowledge after caring for her mother, Patricia Boughner, 59, who was diagnosed at University Hospital (UH) last fall with cardiomyopathy-a disorder of the heart muscle.
"On Sept. 15, I got a call from my mother around 5 a.m.," she says. "She called and said she couldn't breathe and wasn't feeling right.
"It scared me because she is the type of person who never wants to see the doctor or get medical treatment."
Vice felt the same kind of worry when Lewis, 49, called her from his route and asked her to send someone to take his place.
"Scott was delivering to Starbucks that day," Vice says. "He never misses work."
She got a call from Lewis on his second stop. He wanted her to send someone to cover his shift.
"He said, 'I'm sweating, and I'm nauseated,'" she recounts. "It didn't sound like him at all. I thought, 'What if he is having a heart attack?'"
Lewis remembers that day vividly as well.
"Well, I was slow that day," he says. "My left arm was aching, and I was having a hard time breathing."
He said he made the first stop, but just couldn't make the second.
"I called Jodi and asked her to send someone immediately," he says.
The next thing he remembers is waking up in an ambulance.
He was having a heart attack in his truck, and the baristas at the Rookwood Commons Starbucks called paramedics. Lewis was being taken to UH.
But those baristas wouldn't have thought to check on Lewis without a push from Vice.
"I tried to call him back to tell him we were sending someone out there," she says. "He didn't pick up his phone, and even though it was probably only a minute, it seemed like an eternity."
Vice called the Starbucks and persuaded the baristas to go out and check on her co-worker.
"They put me on hold and then hung up on me," she says, adding that she thought someone just walked by and hung the phone up.
"I tried to call back several times and kept getting a busy signal."
Finally, she reached the Starbucks employees who informed her that Lewis was unconscious in his truck and that an ambulance was on the way.
After reaching UH, Lewis, who was in shock, was taken to the catheterization laboratory, where he received a stent to his right coronary artery.
Vice was at the hospital that very night checking up on her co- worker and friend.
"I actually sent the guy who was coming to relieve him to the hospital as soon as I heard," she says. "I didn't want Scott to be there alone."
Vice says she may have overreacted to Lewis' symptoms but is happy that she did.
"I wasn't going to take a chance," she says. "I had already witnessed what my mom went through.
"I didn't want it to happen to someone else."
Not only is Boughner doing much better with her condition, but Lewis also has been released and is back to making deliveries.
He says he is so thankful for Vice's intuition and her caring nature.
The single father of three has 23- and 25-year-old sons, the eldest of whom is in Iraq, and a 19-year-old daughter who is training to become an emergency medical technician to help others in trouble.
While hospitalized, Vice was cared for by Neal Weintraub, MD, professor in the division of cardiovascular diseases and cardiologist at UH-the same doctor who is treating Boughner.
Weintraub says this story is truly inspiring in exemplifying how the fight against heart disease is growing stronger.
"Jodi's quick thinking and willingness to take action made all the difference in this case," he says. "Surely, Scott would not be alive today had it not been for her.
"This is a true example of how heart health awareness can save lives," he continues. "By learning about heart disease from her
mother's experience, Jodi was empowered to help Scott, turning potential tragedy into a happy ending."