John Johnson

It was the little things that made a difference for 32-year-old John Johnson on March 9, 2010.

Johnson, who had no family history of heart disease, had gone to work as a contract electrician at the Pollock prison, but didn’t feel well.

“He took some Rolaids before he left for work,” said Katee Johnson, John’s wife. “He thought he had indigestion. But later, when his coworkers went to look for him, they found him sweating, slumped over in his truck.”
Here’s where one of those “little things” come into play.

The prison had an automatic external defibrillator on the premises - and a nurse practitioner who knew how to use the AED and administer CPR.  If Johnson had gone to an alternate work site as planned, there would have been no nurse practitioner or an AED.

“They shocked him five times with the AED and revived him enough to give him an aspirin and get him on the ambulance gurney,” Mrs. Johnson explained.

Then, his boss insisted the ambulance take Johnson to Rapides Regional Medical Center. There, the cardiologist met them in the emergency room and had Johnson sent straight to an open cath lab.

“If that doctor hadn’t been on duty. If the ambulance had gone to another hospital. If the cath lab hadn’t been open – there were so many things that just fell into place that day,” Mrs. Johnson said.

The cardiologist found a 98 percent blockage in a major artery and opened it with a stent– but once the blockage was open, no one was sure if Johnson, who had gone approximately two hours without oxygen, would wake up.

“He woke up three days later,” said Mrs. Johnson, who was 9-weeks pregnant at the time. “It was the longest three days of my life.”

A second heart attack five days later meant a second stent and a double bypass. Still, Johnson was back at work eight weeks after surgery. Today, John and Katee are parents to 4-year-old Lily Mae and 4-month-old Mary Ellen – and John has made a change in his eating and exercise habits.

“He doesn’t remember any of it,” Mrs. Johnson said. “And for a while, he lived like nothing had happened. But that scar on his chest is always a reminder.”