Tim Gervais

cardiology fahc uvm university

Some might call it the power of routine - 42-year-old Tim Gervais calls it tunnel vision. "I had to get to work," he says. "That was my only focus."

So Tim tried to ignore the cold, clammy weak feeling he first noticed when he got out of the shower. He tried to ignore the weakness in his arms, even as he drove the 42 miles from his Enosburg home to IBM in Essex.

But by the time he'd arrived at work, he could no longer ignore his symptoms. "I told my co-worker, ‘something's not right. I'm going to Fletcher Allen.'"

Thankfully, Tim's colleagues would not let him drive himself. Within minutes, Essex Rescue arrived.

In the ambulance, an EKG revealed that Tim was having an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) - meaning that he had a complete blockage of an artery in his heart, requiring aggressive intervention to open the artery within 90 minutes.

Forty-four minutes after the ambulance was called, Tim was in Fletcher Allen's cardiac catheterization lab, where Cardiologist Ed Terrien, M.D., and the cardiac catheterization team began working to open his clogged arteries.

They inserted a catheter into one of Tim's leg arteries, feeding it into the blocked arteries and expanding a balloon to open the clogged artery - a procedure known as angioplasty. A wire mesh tube called a stent was placed at the spots where there were blockages, to keep the vessel open.

It turned out that Tim needed four stents - three in one artery that was 100% clogged, and one in an artery that was 99% clogged.

By lunchtime, Tim was back in his hospital room, with his wife Shelly and his extended family at his side. They were all stunned that he'd had a heart attack - and that the crisis had been resolved so quickly.

But in many respects, Tim's journey had just begun.

"For the next few days," he says, "all I heard was ‘diet' and ‘smoking.' Those nurses were hounding me!"

Apparently Tim got the message. Today he is 30 pounds lighter and his cholesterol has dropped from 330 to 137. He switched from eggs to oatmeal, traded in steak for salad, and takes walks during work breaks. He hasn't had a cigarette in more than a year.

For all that he has given up, Tim has gained something precious: he and Shelly are the proud parents of a new baby girl, Lilly.

Tim wants to thank everyone at Fletcher Allen for his care. "They saved my life, and they helped give me the motivation to change my life," he says. "There's no question -- I got phenomenal care."