David Phipps' Story

David Phipps' running in raceI have become a passionate runner over the last several years, competing in 5K’s and 10K’s, marathons and half marathons regularly. I believed I was in the best health of my life. Part of my motivation was that in the back of my mind I was always aware that my dad had experienced a life altering heart attack at age 47, and I was doing my best not go down that same path.

But on the morning of May 18, 2021, I got out at 6:30 a.m. to do my morning run as normal. We have a nice running trail very close to my home. I got a few yards up the path when I suddenly felt pain, pressure and tightness in my chest. I stopped. I knew this was something really abnormal so I called my wife and started walking back towards my home. She met me and rushed me directly to the emergency department at Johnston Health’s Clayton hospital, which is a certified chest pain center. Soon after I was hooked up to the cardiac equipment and I was told I was having a heart attack. The CPC staff medicated me and told me they needed to transfer me to the cardiac cath lab.

Once I was in the cath lab, Dr. Hook and his staff started to work on me immediately. They were comforting and calming; even asked me what type of music I wanted to listen to as they did the catherization. I could hear Dr. Hook singing along with one of my favorite artist as he performed angioplasty to open up my blocked artery. Very shortly after the procedure, while I was still in the ICU, he told me that my heart had already returned to normal and there was no sign of damage. He said, “You have cheated death. Good for you!”

I began to feel better almost immediately, but this event had really shaken me. I couldn’t help but think of how my dad was never the same and was really physically limited after his heart attack. I was a little down and unsure if I would ever be able to run again and do all the things I had planned. Dr. Hook sensed my anxiety, and took the time to share his own personal cardiac history with me. I was very touched and inspired by his story. Dr. Hook and his staff were wonderful, as were the ICU staff and the team on the third floor. The patience and kindness of everyone was amazing, especially considering the year they had all been through dealing with COVID-19.

Upon discharge I began walking right away. I realized my dedication to running, combined with the amazing care I had received, contributed heavily to my survival and allowed my heart to recover with no permanent damage. After my ten-day checkup I was cleared to run. I walked for one hour on May 26 and began to get my confidence back. On May 27 I ran one easy mile and then three miles on May 28. I was going to be ok!

While on the Johnston Health website I saw that the Johnston Health Foundation had been the driving force that raised money for the Cardiac Cath lab that had saved my life. I saw Dr. Hook’s name on the list of supporters who helped raise the funds. I decided that I wanted to see what I could do personally to help the Foundation and its efforts to support the Heart Fund.

On the website I also saw that the Johnston Health Foundation Champions 5K/10K. I was blown away to realize that the very Johnston Health Foundation races that I had participated in for several years actually supported the Heart Fund. While I had been running in these events because I love to run and support local causes, I didn’t realize that I would, one day in the future, benefit so directly from the Foundation’s efforts.

I am so grateful to the folks in the Chest Pain Center, Dr. Hook and the team in the cardiac cath lab, the hospital staff, and all those who supported the Foundations efforts to build the lab. Last but not least, to my wife Liz, who got me to where I needed to be so quickly.

David Phipps, Clayton, NC

Pictured above: David Phipps on the jogging trail where his story began, and (right) participating in our 2019 Gobble Waddle 5K/ 10K benefitting the Johnston Health Foundation Heart Fund.

Talk to Your Doctor

If your doctor refers you to UNC Health Johnston for cardiovascular care, ask your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment for you.