"It's just a small world," is a sentiment Jack Walker says of his experience at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute's
Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
when he noticed a fellow participant looked familiar. "I went up to [Rick Stone], and he said he was one of the lead paramedics at Fire District #4 who treated me the night of my heart attack. It was comforting to see him at St. Luke's."
Jack's story toward a healthy heart
An avid hunter and fisherman, Jack says he had been diagnosed with bronchitis by his physician just before going out to Mt. Spokane to hunt deer one evening. After attempting to field dress the deer he shot, he says he knew he was in trouble. "I couldn't breathe and I had chest pain; then I started sweating profusely and had an upset stomach."
Jack, 61 years old, drove himself down from the mountain and pulled into the nearest fire station, Spokane County Fire District #4, where Rick, a paramedic, helped Jack before the ambulance arrived, taking him to
Providence Spokane Heart Institute
on the Sacred Heart campus.
"Station #4 was amazing, helping me and then making sure my truck was locked up before the ambulance got there," Jack says. "I always said if I could die hunting or fishing I'd be a happy man. Well, I died four times that night-my heart arrested many times before I even got to the hospital."
Jack was in a coma for 14 days at Sacred Heart before transferring to St. Luke's for cardiac rehab. "It was amazing what cardiac rehab did for me. The therapists are always looking out for you. They're looking at your heart rate and blood pressure while you exercise. Now when I go to the gym on my own, I can feel and listen to my body better. You know what your limitations are. I have a drive to stay healthy because I don't want to go through this again."
"St. Luke's was a lifesaver and the cardiac rehab program is a club where we share the same goal of getting better," Jack says. "I highly recommend St. Luke's, there's no question that's where I would go."
"Rick helped save my life. That's what he does, as a paramedic, but I would bet he doesn't always get to be in class next to the guy who he helped save. It was very cool. We got to know each other a little bit. I thank him every day for being there and helping me."
From paramedic to patient: Rick's story
"I wore my Fire District #4 jacket to rehab, and Jack saw it. I asked him if he was the hunter who suffered severe chest pains and that's how we made contact," Rick says. "Being thanked does go with the territory of being a paramedic, and Jack was quite determined to find others who helped him that night to thank them."
Rick, 67 years old, was at home when he went into cardiac arrest. His wife, Carol, performed CPR while first responders were en route. Carol is also a paramedic for Spokane's AMR and was Rick's student 28 years ago.
"Carol did seven to eight minutes of CPR until the fire department got here without a break," he says. "That's love. She stopped once to give me a breath, but she did straight CPR. Something we want others to know -learn to do compression-only CPR to the tune of 'Staying Alive;' this is what saves lives."
Rick was also taken to Providence Spokane Heart Institute, where he stayed for four weeks. He then began his cardiac rehabilitation at St. Luke's with Carol by his side. "Carol has done a fantastic job of weeding out what I can and can't eat based on the nutrition education we got at rehab," Rick says.
"I tell others that going to St. Luke's rehab not only helps you physically and mentally, but it also creates social bond with people in the class just like a support group," Rick says. "We all sit and talk, getting to know each other's stories. The leadership of the program is great. They keep an eye on us, taking our vitals before, during and after each exercise session."
"When I started going, I was in a wheelchair because I couldn't walk the length of the building to go to rehab," Rick says. "Now, I'm on a treadmill and can do stair-climbing exercises."
"It's incredible stories like Jack and Rick's that really make my job come alive," says Suzanna Tarr, St. Luke's certified exercise physiologist. "Their experiences and bond make us proud to be part of their rehabilitation journeys."
For more information on St. Luke's comprehensive, medically-monitored exercise and education program, please visit
or call (509) 473-6000.