"How not to die on a Monday". That's the phrase Jim Mather uses to describe the day he was rushed to Ascension Providence's Emergency Department while he was actively having a heart attack.
June 14, 2021 started as it does most every other day for the Mobile man. Jim took off for a run on the University of South Alabama campus near his home. On this particular day, he was joined by two friends.
Quickly after the trio started running, Jim says he began to feel unwell. He describes it as a weak feeling, paired with a subtle shortness of breath. Jim told the other two to go ahead without him, while he slowed to a walk. Within a few minutes though, slight chest pressure began, and he says it seemed to be worsening in spite of the fact that he'd stopped running. That's when Jim was hit with the stark truth: he was having a heart attack. He eased down to his knees, placed himself gently on the ground face-first, and prayed.
Then, the sound of footsteps. The woman Jim had been running with says she felt that the Lord told her to turn around to check on him. "When she got very close to me, I told her ‘I'm having a heart attack; we need to go'," Jim recalls. At that exact moment, an employee from the University of South Alabama just happens to be driving by and sees Jim in distress. She stops to help, and they pile into her car, while calling Jim's wife, Mary, to get her ready to drive him to Providence.
"Whoever picked up Jim, we still don't know who it is - if you're out there somewhere, we're so thankful for this guardian angel," Mary says as she thinks back on those tense moments.
Jim and Mary rush to the Emergency Department. With Jim's arm draped around Mary's shoulders, they inform the staff he's having chest pain, and everyone jumps into action. The on-call cardiologist, Dr. Riddell, just so happened to be pulling into the parking lot at the same time the Mathers were rushing Jim through the doors.
"Within minutes, I was prepped for cardiac catheterization and within 30 minutes, it was over," Jim recalls. "So from the time that I had chest pain, to the time that I had completed care, certainly was less than an hour. Which is critical. Time is everything." He says he had 100 percent blockage of one of the main arteries.
Mary only has positive things to say about the level of care given to them that day, "They took him in faster than I could even think. My experience at the hospital was so positive because people were very calm and encouraging."
Jim's advice to anyone out there considering delaying care or ignoring what could be life-threatening symptoms? Don't. "You know, men tend to be in denial about their health situations, but the older you get the more you realize denial is a very futile effort. It can be deadly," Jim says. "You can mess around with some things but don't mess around with your heart."
As for Jim, the 62 year-old ran a 5K just 60 days after his heart attack. He says he's lost a little weight, is more aware of his diet, and keeps an eye on his blood pressure. He went for another follow-up with his cardiologist in October and says he's still an active runner; he just makes sure to have somebody with him most days, just in case.