Open Accessibility Menu

Marvin Phillips

  • Author: Marvin Phillips
  • Date Submitted: Apr 5, 2017
  • Category: Heart & Vascular

Heart attack survivor Marv Phillips put his race to recovery in the hands of skilled, board-certified cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and vascular surgeons who work with Kaweah Health’s dedicated heart team.

It seems nothing can stop Marvin “Marv” Philips, 76, of Visalia, from the adrenaline rush that comes from drag racing. Trained as a machinist in the army at the age of 20, he was stationed in Germany and gained an interest in racing European sports cars. He has spent the majority of his life building and repairing the heart of race cars - their engines and valves. He knows firsthand the hard work, experience, and commitment needed to fine-tune an engine. But as life would have it, he gained respect for local cardiologists after they repaired and fine-tune his own engine - his heart.

Marv’s race of a lifetime really began at the age of 46, in 1986, when he suffered a heart attack.

“After the first heart attack, I enrolled in cardiac rehab at Kaweah Health,” Marv said. “I was focused on exercise and diet to help me combat my family’s history of heart problems. I knew it would be an ongoing challenge, knowing that my father had passed from a massive heart attack.” Cardiac rehabilitation provided Marv a personalized program designed with exercise and education to develop healthy living habits. His highly specialized clinical team worked closely to provide the best therapy for his medical condition.

Ten years later, on April 2, 1996, despite ongoing monitoring and exercise, Marv suffered a massive heart attack while at home and was taken immediately to Kaweah Health Medical Center.

“I woke up about 3 a.m. I felt nauseated and faint. I went to the bathroom and when I returned, I laid down and suddenly passed out,” Marv recalled. “My wife placed my heart medication in my mouth and called 9-1-1.”

Marv woke up while the paramedics were transferring him by ambulance to Kaweah Health. An angiogram was performed to evaluate if any blockages existed in the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the organs using an injection of a contrast agent (iodine dye).

In need of emergency open heart surgery, Kaweah Health’s surgical staff, in collaboration with Visalia's most experienced heart surgeons, performed a six-way coronary artery bypass.

“My doctors are the greatest. I have Dr. [Vinod] Gupta, Dr. [Gurtej S.]Dhillon, and my surgeon Dr. [Frederick] Mayer to thank for saving my life,” Marv said. “Again, I have been blessed to have a surgeon and cardiologists with years of experience available locally to do my surgery.”

An Ongoing Race with Heart Problems

In 2005, Marv had another heart attack and again in 2013. Over the past decade, a total of five stents were placed in his heart by Shashi K. Sharma, M.D., and Dr. Gupta, who placed the two most recent stents.

“Mr. Phillips has done very well and has grown with Kaweah Health hospital,” Dr. Gupta said. “We started our open heart program in 1996, and he was one of the first 100 patients to have bypass surgery. Our cardiac program continues to grow and serve our community with surgeries from treating irregular heartbeats to restoring blood flow through an artery. Mr. Phillips, and thousands more, have benefited from all of the cutting-edge technologies Kaweah Health has brought to our door step for cardiac care.”

Most recently, in 2016, after having concerns of shortness of breath in high altitudes, Sukhvinder Bhajal, M.D., helped Marv by implanting a pacemaker and a defibrillator. Marv shared during recent trips to Lake Tahoe, he had never felt so good and was pleased with his cardiac care.

“Even after surviving prostate cancer and a family history of heart issues, I still hold a positive outlook and stay focused on making each day better than the last,” Marv said. “I believe everyone should be thankful for the doctors and nurses we have locally. They have allowed me to do what I love most.”

Racing On

With his son Richard, a mechanical engineer, Marv continues to stay in the race and work on his 1932 bantam body, Gordy chassis, powered by a 509 cubic inch Donovan big block Chevrolet engine. His loyal, hard-working team positioned its car to win at this past summer’s Sacramento Raceway in the 7.0 Pro categories, and lead in points for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Heritage series 7.0 Pro. Most recently, the team won California’s Governors Cup Championships at Sacramento Raceway Park.

In racing, Marv aims to be first at the finish line. But in life, what keeps him racing is the trusted experience of cardiologists affiliated with Kaweah Health.

Everyone has a reason to live a longer and healthier life. Tell Us Your Story at