Published on February 03, 2022

Missouri Woman Survives the Odds from Near-Fatal Heart AttackThanks to Experienced Care at Silver Cross

Brad and Luanne Haggard had planned a long weekend last spring, when they drove from their home in St. Joseph, MO, to visit his brother, Doug and family in New Lenox. 

Luanne Haggard
Luanne  and Brad Haggard

The long weekend turned into weeks as Luanne, who suffered an unexpected and severe heart attack, received lifesaving care at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. 

“For a while, I didn’t think I would be bringing her home alive,” Brad said of his wife of 33 years. “It was pretty scary.” 

By all rights, Luanne Haggard was very lucky to be alive, said Dr. Joseph Stella, a cardiologist at Heart Care Centers of Illinois, who specializes in interventional cardiology and cardiology at Silver Cross. 

Only a few hours earlier, Luanne had been talking to her sister-in-law, Laura, in her New Lenox home when she suddenly became unresponsive. Brad, who was returning from a trip to Chicago in a separate car, heard the frightening news and drove straight to Silver Cross. 

Luanne had suffered an episode of sudden cardiac death while visiting her family. Sudden cardiac death is caused by loss of heart function. 

Administering CPR

“Thank the Lord, Laura recognized Luanne had stopped breathing,” Brad explained. “My Dad, Darrell, and Laura got Luanne on the floor, and Laura at once started administering CPR while Hanna, our niece, called 911. A responding New Lenox Police Officer heard the call on the radio and came over to do CPR until the paramedics arrived and used the defibrillator. 

“It’s only five or so minutes from my brother’s house to Silver Cross, but they said Luanne’s heart stopped a second time on the way there, and a third time in the cardiac catheterization lab.” 

Dr. Stella was called in after Luanne had lost her blood pressure. She was placed on the maximum medication dosages to maintain her circulation, Dr. Stella said. 

Undergoing an Angioplasty

As she was taken to the cardiac catheterization lab, Luanne still had no blood pressure. Dr. Stella performed an angioplasty and placed a stent to re-open blood flow in her left anterior descending artery, also known as the “widow maker.” He then inserted a balloon pump through her leg to help support her blood pressure and help her heart heal. 

Luanne was placed on a ventilator, and her body temperature was cooled to 90 degrees for several days to help minimize damage to her brain. 

Dr. Joseph Stella
Dr. Joseph Stella

Brad praised the hospital for its excellent care, singling out Dr. Stella, Dr. Hong Jun Yun, also an interventional cardiologist on staff at Silver Cross, and the nurses in the hospital’s specially designated Cardiovascular Unit. 

Removing the Ventilator

After several days, Dr. Stella said, they began backing off the medication to see how Luanne would do on her own. Since she had made marked improvement, they were able to take her off the ventilator. After nine days in an induced coma to preserve brain function, Luanne woke up. 

“And she showed no cognitive damage,” Dr. Stella said. “It was amazing.” 

Luanne, who “graduated” from her cardiovascular rehabilitation back home in Missouri, said she remembers nothing. 

“I just remember waking up in the hospital. They told me what happened, and I said, ‘Oh, okay’,” she explains. 

At 56, Luanne admits to high levels of work stress and a family history of heart disease and early deaths due to heart attacks. 

Dr. Stella said in Luanne’s case, a small piece of plaque lining her “widow-maker” artery broke off, causing an immediate blockage of blood flow to the heart. 

Ironically, he added, there is more danger of that happening to a person when there is only a 30 to 40 percent blockage of the artery, rather than 90 percent. 

“When the blockage is at 90 percent, it is usually calcified and more stable,” he said. “But at 30 to 40 percent, it’s unstable and easier for the plaque to rupture.” 

Heart Scans Save Lives

Dr. Stella strongly recommends those with family histories of heart problems get a heart screening, such as Silver Cross Hospital’s $49 Heart Scan, sooner than later. If they find some plaque, he said, a cardiologist can work with the patient to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and follow-up with regular check-ups. 

Luanne and Brad were impressed that Dr. Stella insisted on calling her cardiologist back home in Missouri to discuss her case while they were in the office for a visit. 

Dr. Stella said he wanted to make sure the doctor knew how serious Luanne’s health crisis was and discuss follow-up. 

“And when she left, she was a happy, healthy lady,” Dr. Stella added. “It was a blessing.” 

Today, Luanne has a new, less-stressful job, is expecting her first grandchild, enjoys a deeper faith and feels blessed to be alive. 

“Brad and I take walks; we eat heart healthy. We are just so grateful for all they did for us at Silver Cross. God placed all the right people at the right time. It was a miracle.” 

Click here to make a charitable donation to support heart care services at Silver Cross Hospital.

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.