Like many of his neighbors, 69-year-old Ray Paquette spent most of the week shoveling snow and ice to make a path to his North Raleigh home.
It’s a cold and miserable chore for many people. But Paquette feels lucky he can do it.
Five years ago, Paquette went into cardiac arrest during a stress test at Rex Hospital in Raleigh. He was clinically dead for an hour and 20 minutes.
But doctors and nurses moved quickly, performing chest compressions and using a defibrillator to get the heart pumping blood.
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Paquette suffered no brain damage from a lack of oxygen, but he needed double-bypass heart surgery and recovered in the hospital.
Back home, he eased into his regular routine. A year passed before he started going to the gym again. Recently, he started working out four or five times a week, like he did before.
“I’m back to where I was,” Paquette said. “It’s just been a long, slow process.”
Mohit Pasi, a Raleigh cardiologist, saw Paquette for the first time in early 2010. Paquette had said he was experiencing chest pains when he exerted himself.
Pasi ordered a stress test, a diagnostic test that determines if there’s a blockage in the heart. Patients walk on a treadmill at various levels of intensity while being closely monitored.
The other option is a cardiac catheterization, an invasive procedure in which a doctor threads a tube into the heart.
After that first stress test in February 2010, Pasi found that Paquette had two blockages. Doctors monitored him, and he returned three months later for another stress test.
Paquette knew something was wrong as he walked on the treadmill.
“I felt something really terrible was happening, and I looked up at the guy administering it and said, ‘I really need some help, ” Paquette recalled. “I slipped into oblivion, and that’s when the whole thing started.”
Pasi and a team of nurses jumped in to help. It took more than an hour to clear the blockage with medication through catheterization.
Pasi said he has had to keep other cardiac-arrest patients alive for longer than an hour and 20 minutes. But if a patient survives such an ordeal, he said, the chances for brain damage are fairly high. Paquette didn’t suffer any long-term effects.
“I just didn’t want to give up on Ray,” Pasi said.
Paquette has had heart troubles before. After he retired in 1997 from his job in the technology industry, he and his wife, Catherine, spent years sailing around the Bahamas. Throughout that time, he had a few heart-related procedures to deal with blockages.
Now, Paquette said he is lucky to have Pasi taking care of him.
“I used to kid with Dr. Pasi ... that I’d make him famous, because he deserves to be,” Paquette said.
As a way to show appreciation for the health-care workers who saved his life, Paquette agreed to be part of a local ad campaign for the new North Carolina Heart & Vascular Center in Raleigh. The center is currently under construction at Rex’s Raleigh campus and is scheduled to open in 2017.
“Anything they wanted me to do, I’d be willing to do it,” Paquette said. “I owe them a lot. I wouldn’t be here without them.”