Rusty Fleming

Special to the Grove Sun

For Coves residents George and Nann McCreary Thanksgiving came early this year, August 27 to be exact. The long-time Vinita rancher, farmer and educator, who has been an active member in the surrounding business community for some fifty plus years, was tending to some yard work at the couple’s newly constructed home. George recalls the events that morning like this.

“I was getting a few things cleaned up before heading over to the pro shop for a round of golf with the noon group. When the pain hit me in the chest, I went inside our house and took some antacid for what I initially thought might be heartburn. But when the pain became a lot worse within ten minutes or so, there was no doubt in my mind I was having a heart attack. Living here at The Coves probably saved my life.”

He went on to add, “I never really worried much about a heart attack since I haven’t smoked for over forty-five years, don’t drink much and exercise on a regular basis.”

McCreary credits the quick response by The Coves security personnel, Kent Hendron and Justin Clarke and their decision to immediately call nearby CEMSA for medical support. When the first responders arrived, they immediately ran an EKG and confirmed a heart attack was in progress. It was no minor heart attack, as the main artery leading to the heart was all but clogged, an artery dubbed the “Widow-Maker”.

The first responders, Lori Warner and April Ray, immediately called for a life flight helicopter and determined The Oklahoma Heart Institute was possibly McCreary’s only hope for surviving an attack this serious. The fact The Coves had invested in the construction of a helicopter pad on the development’s grounds also saved valuable minutes in getting this retired educator to the help he so desperately needed. McCreary recalls what happened next like this.

“I never totally lost consciousness and remember them loading me on the helicopter. I may have been drifting in and out, but I do remember it was a rough ride, but they had me where I needed to be in about twenty minutes,” McCreary said. He added, “I’m absolutely convinced I wouldn’t be here today if the nurses hadn’t sent me directly to the Oklahoma Heart Institute.”

After being stabilized and evaluated, Cardiologist Eugene J. Ichinose explained the serious nature of the heart attack McCreary had survived and didn’t mince any words in telling him he was extremely lucky to be alive. It’s yet to be determined if he’ll need a difibrillator or a monitor implanted and he’s facing an ongoing rehabilitation program

Due to the nature of the attack, he has been invited to participate in a national study of a cardiac vest designed to prevent sudden death. He’s one of 400 people enrolled nationally. The vest is designed to monitor the patients heart and administer an electrical shock if needed to restart the heart in case of an emergency. George laughs as he described how the vest works.

“If it detects a problem with a guy’s heart, a loud voice from a speaker says, ‘Stand back! Stand Back!’ Then a siren goes off before it actually zaps you. It can really cramp your lifestyle in a lot of ways, but having a lifestyle is a lot better option.”

According to the talkative Coves resident, who has recorded two rounds of golf of 75 and one 76 since his heart attack, the message he wants to share is a very simple one.

“If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, go directly to a facility like the Oklahoma Heart Institute which deals with heart attacks every single day. Don’t take the chance of being sent to nearby medical facilities only to be later transferred to another place. During a heart attack, time is the most important factor in determining life or death.”

Looking back at the still ongoing ordeal, George summarized his experience like this.

“I’m seventy-four years old and certainly have lived a full life. But it reminded me of why living in The Coves has a lot of unforeseen benefits. Had I not survived my heart attack, Nan would have continued living here because the residents are like one big family and they would take care of her. But, with that said, I’m glad I’m still here to supervise her, and of course, take a little more money from the noon group.