14 A heart attack has a happy ending, thanks to some good fortune By Tolli Willhite “True miracles occur every day. They just happened to happen to me,” said Learon Tidwell, 72, from Newman Lake, as he described a day that will forever remind him how fragile life really is. Like many of us do, Learon and his family had company in town, and they were eager to show them the beauty of northern Idaho. They rented a pontoon boat and headed out to enjoy a lovely Sunday in June on Lake Coeur d’Alene. “Pops is going swimming too,” Learon promised his grandchildren. Those are the last memories he has of that day. After going for a Surviving the Odds swim and climbing back in the boat, he slumped over on his daughter Charlsie’s shoulder. “Call 911. Dad is having a heart attack,” Charlsie, an echocardiographer in the Heart Center at Kootenai Health, calmly informed her family as she began CPR on her dad. “She immediately jumped into action,” said Peggy, Learon’s wife and Charlsie’s mom. “Having Charlsie with us that day was the first of many blessings.” Counting their blessings While the pontoon boat made its way to Beauty Bay Marina as instructed, a jet skier on the lake noticed the commotion and came to help. Her name was Cindy, a certified nursing assistant vacationing from Alaska. Cindy and Charlsie took turns administering CPR. This was the second blessing of the day. East Side Fire District Deputy Chief Charlotte Pegoraro was off-duty but in the area when she heard the call come over her radio. She was in her command vehicle equipped with an automated external defibrillator unit and oxygen. This was the third blessing of the day. Within 30 minutes from the initial call to 911, agencies from across our region responded to assist, including Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, Kootenai Country Fire and Rescue, Coeur d’Alene Fire Department and Medic 32. “So much happened during those 30 minutes, and with seamless integration of all these agencies,” Pegoraro said. “Everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing and executed it amazingly well. It speaks volumes about the quality of emergency medical services in Kootenai County.” —Continued from page 13 when he went in for surgery on Jan. 10. Dr. Pasko had explained that option A would be a routine bypass surgery, but they would be prepared for option B, the Whipple procedure, if necessary. Mike woke up following surgery to a smiling Dr. Pasko. During surgery, she found he had pancreatic cancer and was able to remove it using the Whipple procedure. Because pancreatic cancer often goes undetected, it is frequently not diagnosed until it is very advanced and extremely difficult to treat. Mike’s bile duct surgery allowed for an early diagnosis and treatment that very likely saved his life. “Cancer is a formidable opponent, and diseases like myeloid leukemia and pancreatic cancer are two of the most difficult to treat,” said Nathanael Gay, M.D. “Despite the tremendous challenges they have faced, the Walkers have shown unwavering determination, positivity and support for each other throughout their treatment. They have been an inspiration to me and our staff. It has been a true privilege and pleasure to care for and provide the highest level of cancer care for Jane and Mike.” The Whipple procedure involves removing the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct.