SPIRIT Stories

U.S. Navy veteran feels waves of emotion after heart attack

Dave Imlah used his terrific voice for nearly 30 years on local radio and another four as a radioman in the U.S. Navy, but one morning in the spring of 2017, his body was transmitting a distress signal.Spirit Stories

He had just completed his morning school bus route in Minocqua and was heading to the parking lot when he started to have difficulty breathing. He was sweating profusely, felt pain in his jaw and down both arms and had tunnel vision. One of the other bus drivers pulled up in his car and asked Dave if he was alright. “I stopped, thought for a second and said no, I think I’m having a heart attack,” he replied.  

The bus company is just two blocks from Howard Young Medical Center and he was in the emergency department in a matter of minutes. “It’s amazing. You say suspected heart attack and you get a lot of attention real fast,” he said. 

Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport was called to transfer Imlah via ground ambulance to Ascension St. Clare’s Hospital and their accredited chest pain center. As a CPR instructor, EMT and volunteer firefighter for the Minocqua Fire Department, Dave is very familiar with ambulances, but not from the vantage point of a patient. “Seeing it from the other side; they (Spirit crew) were amazing. They were friendly, made sure that I was comfortable and that I knew exactly what was going on.” He was extremely tired during the transport but in classic Dave fashion, he found humor during a difficult situation. “I tried talking them in to lights and sirens but they said, ‘you firemen always want to have lights and sirens’ and I said well, yeah.” The Spirit crew continued caring for Dave until he was transitioned to his room at Ascension St. Clare’s. 

Despite being released after one night in the hospital, his journey back to full strength hasn’t been a smooth ride.  Dave suffered a minor stroke during his first visit and then suffered a massive stroke several months later during triple bypass surgery. He couldn’t see out of his right eye, move his right arm or right leg at all. Thanks to help from HYMC’s cardiac rehabilitation department and his dedicated wife Carrie, he’s working tirelessly to get back on his feet and behind the wheel of the school bus again. “I’m very thankful to the doctors, nurses, paramedics and EMTs,” he added. “They are a testament as to why I’m here.”

Dave served on the USS Independence CV-62 which was decommissioned in 1998 and recently sent to the scrapyard. He was honored to purchase a piece of the ship online and hopes to walk without a cane soon, much like he did while standing on the deck of the historic aircraft carrier 40 years ago.