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'Mr. Bike Rider' back in the saddle after heart attack treatment at WellSpan

February 14, 2020


Virginia resident Jack Reagan suffered a heart attack while riding his bike at an event in Lancaster County. After life-saving care at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, he's back in the saddle.

Virginia resident Jack Reagan suffered a heart attack while riding his bike at an event in Lancaster County. After life-saving care at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, he's back in the saddle.

One moment, Jack Reagan was riding his bicycle in the Covered Bridge Classic, a bike event that winds through the countryside of Lancaster County. The next moment, the Virginia man was in the back of an ambulance, heading to a strange hospital in a strange town, two and a half hours from his home.

Reagan had climbed off his bike 35 miles into his ride, experiencing a tight pain in his chest and fearing he was having a heart attack. He already had survived one heart attack in 2016, so he knew he needed top-notch care very fast.

Feeling apprehensive, he turned to the emergency medical technician in the ambulance. “I asked, ‘Where are you taking me?’ Your mind starts racing. You don’t know the quality of the hospital you’re going to or the quality of the doctors you’re going to get.”

The rapid, high-tech, high-touch care he ended up receiving at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital exceeded his expectations in some unexpected ways.

“The staff was spectacular,” he said. “They did a fantastic job.”

When Reagan, a 52-year-old CPA and the married father of two, arrived at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, doctors quickly confirmed that Reagan was indeed having a heart attack. They called in WellSpan cardiologist Patrick Fitzsimmons, M.D., and began readying him for a trip to the cardiac catheterization laboratory.

“He was having pretty acute chest pain and was sweating,” recalled Missi May, clinical team leader and a nurse in the cath lab. “He was in good spirits and wasn’t as nervous as most people would be because it wasn’t his first time around. But he knew, and we knew, he needed immediate care.”

As staff prepped him, Reagan, a music fan, told them that when he had his first heart attack, a song called “Stressed Out” by the group Twenty One Pilots was playing in the cath lab, summing up his feelings at the time. An Ephrata nurse listened, noted and reacted.

“She said, ‘I have a song for you Mr. Bike Rider,’ and she put on the song ‘Ride,’ also by Twenty One Pilots,” Reagan said, laughing. “That calmed my nerves tremendously and showed me the type of care I was getting. They sized me up and were able to judge my personality and my sense of humor. I just thought that was brilliant from a patient care perspective and such a pitch-perfect thing to do.”

Fitzsimmons ended up implanting a stent in Reagan’s heart. The “door-to-balloon time,” the critical period between the time a patient enters a hospital and the time he receives potentially life-saving treatment, was just 66 minutes. In cardiac treatment, “time is muscle,” meaning that delays in treatment increase the likelihood of cardiac muscle damage. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is that time is 90 minute or less.

“He was having an active, acute heart attack,” May said. “It is important to get attention and the right kind of care. When you have chest pain, it should never be ignored.”

Reagan, who recovered fully, expects to return to Lancaster County to do the Covered Bridge Bike Classic again this August, thanks to the care he received in Ephrata.

“What I got at your community hospital was a high caliber of care with an extraordinarily good bedside manner,” he said. “Everyone took that extra couple of minutes to talk and ask questions and answer questions and to come back around and make sure things were going well.”

The day after the procedure, an unexpected visit from James Johnstone, a cardiovascular technologist at Ephrata, was the icing on the cake for Reagan.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry I have to meet you under these circumstances, but I was doing the ride and heard about what happened to you. I heard you were in here and I wanted to meet you,’ “ Reagan said. “The hospital does things a different way and that really impacts the quality of care that the patients get. People get to know and are treating the whole person. That did a lot to heal me up as quickly as I did.”