Success Story

New BRMC cardiac program saves life of man who ‘coded’



As a retired firefighter and emergency medical technician, 62-year-old Richard Walden knows about saving lives.

Recently, Walden’s life was the one that was saved, thanks to quick medical intervention at Brownwood Regional Medical Center’s new Cardiac Intervention Program, which began in July.

On Aug. 9, Walden had a heart attack and “coded” —dropped to the floor of the emergency room waiting with no pulse — minutes after a friend drove him there.

After being initially treated by the emergency room medical staff, Walden was moved to the Cardiac Intervention Program’s cardiac catheterization lab, where the cardiac team put in two stents. Walden walked out of the hospital two days later and had no heart damage.

Before the cath lab opened, hospital officials said, patients such as Walden would have been transferred to a hospital in a larger city.

“It was excellent, because as far as I’m concerned, they saved my life,” Walden said of the care he received at BRMC.

Walden worked as a firefighter and emergency medical technician in Wichita Falls from 1980 to 2004. After retiring from the fire department, he worked for awhile as an insurance adjuster in Tennessee and later drove an 18-wheeler out of Fort Worth.

Three or four years ago, Walden moved to Brownwood, where his sister and brother-in-law, Sharon and Larry Bridges, live.

The morning of Aug. 9, Walden still worked as a truck driver and was getting ready to head for Fort Worth for a run in the 18-wheeler. Walden began having increasingly severe chest pains and knew it was more than indigestion.

“This is not good,” Walden thought to himself. He took some aspirin and called for a friend to take him on the mile drive to BRMC.

Walden walked up to the counter in the emergency room, took a seat and announced he was having a heart attack. Before any of the medical staff had a chance to reach him, he “coded” and fell to the floor.

Walden doesn’t remember any of that. He woke up briefly in the emergency room and saw the medical staff gathered around him. By the time he woke up again, the cardiac team was moving him out of the cath lab and into intensive care.

“I came in with chest pain having a heart attack, and within two hours I was feeling much better,” Walden told the hospital staff. “I guess it was the perfect storm to be in the right place at the right time. Thank you!”

The medical staff was friendly and took excellent care of him, Walden said. In the month of September, the cardiac team performed 35 catheterizations — in which a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel and threaded to heart, allowing diagnostics and treatment —inserted six stents and assisted two patients with heart attacks, a recent employees’ newsletter states.

Walden made note of his role reversal — going from lifesaver to being the one saved. “Being on the other end of it now, I know how they felt,” Walden said.