Jim Cline had just achieved a personal best on the strider machine at the SamFit gym in Newport. The next thing he knew, he was waking up in the Emergency Department. After being told he’d had a heart attack, he asked to call his wife. The doctor dialed the phone and handed it to Jim.
“Hi, honey. I’m in the Emergency Room in Newport,” Jim said when Amy Cline answered.
“What did you break?” she asked.
“I think I broke my heart,” Jim said.
The event happened on a chilly and rainy Monday morning in December. Deborah Olff, a home health and hospice nurse at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, was working out at the SamFit gym for the first time in two years when she saw Jim Cline collapse.
Her basic training kicked in as she rushed to his side and began chest compressions after she was unable to detect a pulse. Another gym member called 9-1-1.
Jennifer Miller, the hospital’s Physical Rehabilitation Department manager, was also at the gym that morning and took over for Olff, who ran to get the Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).
Detecting no heartbeat, the AED delivered two shocks in an attempt to restart Cline’s heart. It worked. Paramedics arrived within eight minutes and Jim again had a pulse.
Though it was Olff’s first time doing CPR, her quick action may have saved Cline’s life, and kept his heart from being damaged.
Later, cardiologist Dr. Sridhar Vijayasekaran told Cline that because CPR was rapidly started — within 10 to 15 seconds; and the AED was applied so quickly — within about 45 seconds — there was no detectable damage to his heart from the heart attack.
The doctor told Amy her husband would be transferred to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. The Clines live in Siletz, so Amy left her house and waited to meet the ambulance at the highway junction.
“I followed him with my flashers on all the way over, including going through stop lights,” she says. “The ambulance stopped, and they told me I could not go through stop signs or red lights. I said, ‘They’ll have to catch me.’”
At Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, three stents were placed in Cline’s coronary arteries and he was discharged in two days. He says the heart attack surprised him because he had no history of heart problems.
“I was dumbfounded when I had the heart attack, because I thought I was doing the right things,” he says. “Because I had been working out regularly for years, my heart was strong. I think that helped my recovery a whole lot, because I wasn’t laying around getting a flabby heart.”
Cline also credits cardiac rehabilitation at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital for helping him recover.
“They are enthusiastic and genuinely concerned about helping you get better,” he says. “At my first session, they asked me about my goals and I said that by the end of the program I want to be back physically to where I was when I started.”
Cardiac rehab exercise specialist Nicole Schultz helped Cline reach his goals, in large part by setting limits for him.
“At the first session, I asked if I could start lifting again,” Cline says. “She said no.”
After two weeks closely monitoring Cline’s activity at the cardiac rehab gym, he was allowed to start lifting again — but at 50 percent of what he had been doing before.
“By the end of cardiac rehab, I was at 95 percent of where I was, now I am above where I was,” he says.
When Cline called his wife from the Emergency Department, he sounded fine, and even though he’d had a heart attack, it didn’t sink in right away.
“I’m a pretty stoic and optimistic person,” Amy says. “I don’t think the whole thing hit me until three or four weeks later. It was kind of surreal to know what the consequences could have been.”
Just a few months before his heart attack, Cline had retired from 24 years in management roles at the Rogue Brewery in Newport. At 65, he was looking forward to enjoying retirement. Jim and Amy took a trip to the United Kingdom for a month, and they planned a variety of other trips both abroad and closer to home. He was excited to have the time to work on projects, rather than just trying to fit them into a weekend. He focused on maintaining good health — eating right and exercising.
Since the heart attack, Cline is even more committed to staying healthy. Before, he worked out three days a week; now, he goes to the gym five days a week. He is more careful about meal choices.
“I have not cut anything out,” he says. “I moderate a lot more than I used to —less red meat, more whole grains, more chicken.”
Whether he is removing trees from his property to expand his gardens, spending time with his daughter and grandson, or going to a family reunion with Amy, Cline wants to be in good health and up to the task.
“I want to be able to spend time with my wife and travel with her,” he says. “I worked a lot for a lot of years. We will have been married 40 years in September. I owe her what time I have left.”
Learn more about Jim at samhealth.org/JimC.