On the most frightening day of his life, Jim Alley ended up at the right place for a miracle.
The genial man with an “in-control” attitude woke up one morning in July 2019 at his home in Seagrove, North Carolina, in wrenching pain.
“I felt like I’d been shot in my stomach, or like somebody was twisting a knife in me,” remembers Jim, now retired after a career spent in building maintenance in Charlotte.
He wound up at Wake Forest Baptist Health High Point Medical Center. The people he met here saved his life.
First, Jim’s wife, Pam, rushed him to the nearest emergency room, where his heart stopped. Doctors there resuscitated him with CPR, and they transported him directly to the cardiac catheterization lab at High Point Medical Center and its Congdon Heart and Vascular Center.
At the cath lab, doctors administered a paralytic and lowered his body temperature to preserve his internal organs and protect his brain and heart.
“We were all quite worried about him surviving his visit to our cath lab,” says cardiologist Dr. Steve C. Rohrbeck, who worked with the medical team to insert two stents to open Jim’s blocked artery, restore blood flow and stabilize his heart rhythm.
“From the time they took him to the cath lab, we didn’t know if he was going to live or die, and if he lived, whether he would have brain function,” Pam says.
Jim was under anesthesia for 24 hours. At some point during his care, he says he had what he describes as an out-of-body experience.
“I went into another reality where I was on the way to heaven, in a gray haze around a bright light,” he says. “Then something or somebody got me to turn around, said to go back—I did. I believe that’s when I went back to my body.
“I feel like I was given extra time for a reason. I feel the meaning behind the whole thing is to tell others there is a place where you go. People need hope, to know that there is another place where you go.”
When he awoke, he had a nickname.
“They called Jimmy ‘Miracle Man,’” Pam says.
After his release from the hospital, he was cared for in cardiac rehabilitation because he had lost significant muscular strength and his left side was weak from a mild stroke. He goes to cardiac rehab three days a week, follows a cardiac diet and has been given an exercise regimen to do on his own.
The Alleys, along with their two daughters, four grandchildren and many friends, are thankful every day for the expertise and compassion of High Point Medical Center and Wake Forest Baptist Health’s state-of-the-art cardiac rehabilitation programs. Access to outstanding heart and vascular care nearby and the dedicated efforts of a skilled team made the difference for Jim.
“The doctors say I can do anything I want to do now, but I’m not sure we’ll be riding the motorcycle,” says Jim, proud owner of a Harley-Davidson.
“As health caregivers, we sometimes feel the things we do are routine,” Dr. Rohrbeck says. “But this is one case where we can truly say that without excellent care at all stages of his illness, Jim Alley certainly would not have survived.”