By Dan Dowling, Regional Communications Manager
“The last thing I remember is being loaded into the ambulance in Rutland and closing my eyes and just telling myself to just relax and everything will be okay. I woke up very confused four days later.”
In February, 34-year-old Alex Adams was leading a busy life as an IT technician for Green Mountain Power and as an active member of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen. In the few months prior, he had dealt with several winter colds and battled COVID-19, when he started feeling fatigued and dealing with chest pain.
Adams was in North Carolina when he suddenly started feeling worse.
“I was on the floor of the hotel room in agonizing pain, and it wouldn't go away,” said Adams.
Thinking it was only muscle pain, Adams suffered through the discomfort and shortness of breath for two more weeks. He finally reached a point where he had to go to the emergency room.
Back in Vermont, at doctors at Rutland Regional Medical Center's emergency department checked his heart with an EKG machine.
“The eyebrows went up and things just progressively got worse. They said, ‘You've had heart attacks,’” said Adams, who was shocked to hear the news.
“I’m usually a healthy guy. I’m generally pretty athletic. I hadn't been very active over the winter because I'd been sick a lot and busy, but certainly didn't think that I would have these heart attacks," he said.
“They informed me that I had two ‘widow maker’ heart attacks and that I had developed pneumonia over the past two weeks. It’s known as the widow maker because it's such a vital supply to the heart,” Adams explained.
Adams needed to be rushed to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington for surgery. Volunteers from the Fair Haven Rescue Squad were able to get him there just in time.
“About half an hour after I got to Burlington, I flatlined. They resuscitated me with CPR, and I flatlined again, they resuscitated me again and I flatlined again. After the third time of my heart stopping, they induced me into a coma,” said Adams.
The doctors were able to get Adams stable and he received two blood transfusions while he was in a coma.
“By adding blood, it allows the heart to work less,” said Adams.
Blood transfusion helps patients by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body and unblock blood vessels. Three days later, doctors were able to wean Adams out of his coma. He spent another day in the ICU and two more days in the cardiac unit before finally going home.
“I'm 34 years old. I've had two heart attacks. How does this happen?”
Months later, Adams is grateful for his fresh start.
“I've just really done the best I can to get back into life. I workout every day. I cycle four or five miles a day. I lift and exercise and I do the best I can with what I've got,” he said.
As an active member of his local community and volunteer, Adams now works to inspire others to donate blood.
“Blood is needed for all sorts of things, whether it be surgical or just to help just struggling heart,” said Adams. “At the end of our day, we're busy and it doesn't seem like a lot, but if we just show up to that thing, it makes a big difference to others.”
Adams will be this year’s champion at the Gift of Life Marathon Blood Drive in Rutland, Vermont. It's one of the state's largest drives and celebrating its 20th year. The blood drive spans multiple days, beginning December 5th, with drive donation locations. To schedule your lifesaving donation, visit RedCrossBlood.org and use the sponsor code “GOLMWINTER”.
“It really encourages everybody to pause and be compassionate. Consider their blood may be going to somebody's son, somebody's daughter, somebody's neighbor, or somebody's wife and really putting that heartbeat behind the physical action because it really does impact lives,” said Adams.
Make the choice to help save a life! Eligible individuals are encouraged to schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767)