Surviving a Heart Attack with a Team of Angels and a Cuddly Bear

Carlos Lemoine, 72, of Chino has been a skier all his life. In the 1980s, he worked for two major ski manufacturers, testing skis in France and topping out at 87 miles per hour in a 4,000-foot vertical drop. He declined an invitation to join the 1982 United States Olympic ski team. He is such an experienced skier, it was a shock when he fell during an easy recreational run with friends in Wrightwood in 2017. The event changed his life forever.

“On my fourth run, I caught some ice under the snow and because of the skis I was using, I fell hard at about 35 miles an hour,” Carlos recalled. “I hit some pipes in the ground that they use to make snow and broke my right shoulder, broke my leg in two places and dislocated my left wrist.”

His right arm and hand were paralyzed; all the nerves, muscles and tendons were affected by his broken shoulder. He was treated at a nearby hospital, which put rods in his leg to stabilize it. But insurance and other complications delayed the surgery he needed. Finally, in March 2017, he had surgery on his leg at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC).

While waking up from anesthesia in PVHMC’s recovery room, Carlos felt pain in his chest. The nurse rushed to bring in a Cardiologist and tests revealed that Carlos had three blocked coronary arteries. He had just suffered a heart attack. A day later, he underwent open-heart, triple bypass surgery at PVHMC.

“I’ve never been sick in my life, so when they told me I needed open heart surgery, it was a shock,” Carlos said. “But the best place to have a heart attack is in the Hospital.”

After successful heart surgery, Carlos underwent several weeks of cardiac rehabilitation at PVHMC and said that today his heart is as good as new. He also underwent seven weeks of physical therapy for his leg at a rehabilitation facility and is able to walk again. After that, he received intensive outpatient physical therapy at PVHMC for his paralyzed arm, which has regained about 80 percent of its function. But his right hand may never heal, so he is learning to use his left hand instead. His left wrist has completely healed.

“Everyone I’ve come into contact with at PVHMC during the last year and a half are part of my life. They live in my heart,” Carlos said. “I don’t call them my nurses; I call them my angels. When you have open heart surgery, they give you a Steady Bear to hug to your chest when you cough. My bear is full of signatures and well-wishes from all of my Doctors, Nurses and Therapists. And that bear is with me wherever I go. It’s like my angel that keeps me safe from harm, because all the angels kept me safe in the Hospital.”

In March 2018, the one-year anniversary of his leg and heart surgery, Carlos visited the Associates in PVHMC’s Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) who cared for him.

“I wanted to thank them for everything they did for me,” he said. “They told me I was family and that I was welcome to visit any time. It was really nice to feel the love and that they remembered me. I would never go anywhere else for care but Pomona Valley Hospital.”

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