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Quick thinking saves Colorado Springs man’s life after major heart attack

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
February 29, 2016 Updated: February 29, 2016 at 11:31 am
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photo - Heart disease survivor Terry Lee skis Monarch Mountain. Courtesy photo
Heart disease survivor Terry Lee skis Monarch Mountain. Courtesy photo 

Look for Heart Health features on gazette.com/heart throughout American Heart Month, sponsored by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

Third-generation Colorado Springs native Terry Lee has always been active, but on September 23, the 65-year-old collapsed at a friend’s house with what he would later be told was a 99-percent blockage in his heart’s left anterior descending artery – also called the “widow maker.”

Thankfully, his friend’s fast thinking saved Lee’s life. “She heard me hit the floor and called 9-1-1 right away,” he said. “I was essentially dead for about 10 minutes, but the paramedics were able to respond very quickly and between all of them, got me stabilized in 30 minutes.”

Lee was then rushed by ambulance to Penrose Hospital, where he received two stents to open up his artery and get blood flowing to his heart again. Penrose-St. Francis is part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care. “The staff there was outstanding,” he said. “They are state of the art and they saved my life.”

Lee has always been active – biking, hiking, and skiing his way around southern Colorado. “I love being in the mountains,” he said. “We’ve got everything here except an ocean. It’s a beautiful part of the world.” A heart attack was certainly a surprise for the retired City of Colorado Springs network engineer. “I thought I was in decent shape,” he said. “I’ve since changed my eating habits even more and have lost 20 pounds.”

Twice a week, Lee attends cardiac rehabilitation and plans to graduation from the program the first week of March. “It has made a huge difference,” he said. “They push me and have helped me develop more positive and aggressive health habits. They are dedicated and caring and genuinely interested in each patient, which is so important to me.”

As he recovers, Lee looks forward to getting back to the fresh, Colorado air and the activities he loves. “I can’t wait to get back up to Monarch (Mountain),” he said. “Next season – look out!”

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