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Litchfield Park man to share heart health story

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Don Ayers is looking forward to scuba diving again. (Photo courtesy Brian Thorsen/Abrazo Community Health Network)

By Lori Baker

Don Ayers was the picture of wellness with a healthy weight and diet, normal blood pressure and cholesterol, and an active lifestyle that included scuba diving in two oceans.

The Litchfield Park resident was stunned when pain shot down his left arm and across his shoulder blades. He resisted when his wife, Terez, said he needed to go to the hospital. He’d always thought these things happened to others.

She insisted, gave him baby aspirin and drove him to Abrazo Community Health Network’s Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear.

“I was amazed I was taken care of so fast,” Ayers said. “They did cardiac enzyme level tests and EKGs. The results showed a problem, but they said they had caught me before I had a heart attack.”

Ayers needed emergency bypass surgery. An angiogram found blockage in four major coronary arteries.  

“I was terrified. I was trying to hide it but a nurse named Sarah saw right through me,” Ayers said.

He calls ICU nurse Sarah Gonzalez, RN, one of his “angels.”  

“Sarah stopped talking about what they were going to do, and instead took my hand and quietly said ‘Let’s talk about how you are feeling.’ She was so empathetic,” Ayers said.   

Ayers credits his other “angels”—nurses Amber Newbern and Miranda McMurry, and exercise physiologist Christine Spiel—with helping him regain his life.

“People who haven’t been through heart surgery don’t understand how it affects you, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” the 56-year-old grandfather said.

Ayers will share his story at a free public forum about cardiovascular health from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, September 15, to help raise awareness about heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. Abrazo Community Health 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort’s Highland Center, 11111 N. Seventh St. in Phoenix.

The event will feature free health screenings, live broadcasts of advanced cardiac procedures, along with patient and physician storytelling, and a question-and-answer session with cardiovascular specialists. Seating is limited. To register, visit AbrazoHealth.com/HeartHealth or call 1-844-563-6109.

Ayers, who graduated from cardiac rehab in August, is back working full time as a general manager of a Glendale business and looks forward to scuba diving again.

 
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