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George & Trish Ruth

George’s story: Thankful for each new day

ruthThe Halloween costumes were all ready and George and Trish Ruth were looking forward to a great evening with friends and family.  But, when George came home from the grocery store that Saturday afternoon in October 2011, he started feeling sick on his stomach, extremely cold, and had severe flu symptoms. He insisted that Trish go to the party without him.

When she got home, George had the heat blazing, was wearing multiple pairs of socks, complained of pain at the back of his neck and some minor chest pain. They both thought it was a really bad case of the flu, but the next morning brought no relief. 

Not until Monday morning, George remembers vividly, “It felt like there was an elephant on my chest,” and he asked Trish to take him to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, a few minutes from their home. In the Emergency Room, George was immediately hooked up to an EKG machine and whisked away to the catheterization lab where Dr. Blankenship inserted three stents in three blockages. George spent about five days in the Hospital for Advanced Medicine (HfAM) where nurses on each shift were assigned specifically to provide critical level care – he was their only patient. It wasn’t until much later that George even realized this, but while at HfAM he was keenly aware that, “The personnel were awesome. The care and the facilities were phenomenal.”  

After getting back into his normal routine, George recalls, “I still wasn’t feeling right. Something was still wrong.” Trish remembers a six-month period of doing almost nothing other than visiting Dr. Peter Berger for additional procedures, now a grand total of 11 stents. George realizes, “Without Dr. Berger’s skill and expertise to deal with my level of damage, the alternative would have been open heart surgery, or worse. He is a heart saver in more ways than one.” 

Dr. Fitzpatrick (the ER physician) later told Trish, “I didn’t think your husband was going to survive. He was in very bad shape when he got to the hospital.”  And George warns others, “Don’t be stubborn like I was. Don’t try to tough it out. I should have gone to the hospital much sooner.”

“Today, I am thankful to be able to work every day at a job I enjoy,” says George. He and Trish will celebrate three years of marriage in 2013 and count each day together as a blessing. The Ruths want everyone to know, “There is no such thing as the typical heart attack symptom – not even for men.” Even with George’s health history – an initial stent at age 35 – and Trish’s many years as a Geisinger employee – and Abigail Geisinger an ancestor – they still didn’t relate the symptoms to a heart attack.

Trish feels so fortunate and wants others to understand, “It is simply amazing to have access to world-renowned physicians, scientists and clinicians right here in the smallest county in Pennsylvania.  If I would have needed to get George to a larger town or another hospital, he most likely would not be here today. We had the best care available – right here at home.”

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