Open Accessibility Menu

Ben Garcia

  • Author: Ben Garcia
  • Date Submitted: Jul 12, 2017
  • Category: Heart & Vascular

The team that brought my heart back to life.

Ben Garcia is one patient whose story illustrates why Kaweah Health consistently earns “A’s,” the top grade for patient safety from Leapfrog and four stars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for overall hospital quality ratings.

Oct. 31, 2016, started off as a normal day for Ben Garcia, but by day’s end, the 45-year-old husband and father of three was fighting for his life.

“What I went through that day you see on TV. It’s not supposed to happen to you,” Ben said.

That day, Ben, a Fresno welder, had been working in Visalia on a construction project at Kaweah Health Medical Center. He wasn’t feeling good. His lungs hurt, but he was working through it. With each passing hour, his condition worsened – he was nauseous, had vomited and his hands and elbows were numb and cramped. After a lunch break, he couldn’t take anymore.

“I got off the ladder as fast as I could and said, ‘I’m going to the ER. Take me to the ER!’” Ben said.

Ben, and his foreman Joe Xayaboupha, made it five or six feet before Ben clutched his chest and fell to the ground; his foreman broke Ben’s fall.

It was the most serious heart attack a person can have. Nicknamed the widow maker, it’s a 100 percent blockage of the left main coronary artery. It results in a heart attack involving 67 percent of the heart. Victims have less than a 40 percent chance of survival.

Ben’s coworker Joe yelled for help, while project superintendent Shane Yocum ran for help and another coworker called 911.

“My father died of a heart attack on Oct. 3, so the whole time I was thinking, ‘Is this really happening?,’” said Joe, who held Ben’s hand, rubbed his heart, and tried to keep him awake.

In minutes, at least 30 Kaweah Health nurses, technicians, staff members, doctors, and more had sprinted to the site. It didn’t matter that Ben was being cared for in a construction site, said Harjoth Malli, M.D., who directed Ben’s care.

“We knew we had the chance to save this guy and we were going to do everything we possibly could to bring him back,” Dr. Malli said. “You don’t pay attention to the unfamiliar. You pay attention to what you know – how to save your patient.”

After 20-30 minutes of CPR, providing the maximum dose of medications, and repeated electrical shocks from a defibrillator, the team stabilized Ben’s heartbeat, qualifying him for emergency surgery. Cardiologist Aditya Verma, M.D., opened Ben’s blocked artery and inserted stents to restore normal blood flow to his heart.

“I was basically dead, but because they didn’t give up, I’m here today,” said Ben, who at six feet and 250 pounds had not previously experienced any heart problems. “I never believed in miracles, but this was one. Thank God I was working where I was, when I was.”

Ben’s wife Diana agrees. She previously worked at a hospital and could not recall hearing that a team spent as long trying to resuscitate someone having a heart attack.

“I would have never known how to get to this hospital,” said Diana, who is from Fresno. “But now I know my way. If he wasn’t working there that day, he’s here today.”