Bill Joyner

January 29th, 2015

Fighting to Save a Firefighter

Bill Joyner, 53, has always kept himself fit: As a Virginia Beach firefighter for 25 years, he ate well and worked out at least four times a week. So one spring afternoon when he felt a stitch in his back after running with his wife Rachel, he didn’t worry. He figured he could take an aspirin and be OK.

“When Rachel saw me take one, she wanted to call 911,” shares Bill, who lives in Camden, N.C. “I didn’t want to, but I agreed to go to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center.”

On the way, Bill suffered a heart attack. Rachel, a former volunteer emergency medical technician, pulled into a parking lot, called 9-1-1 and began performing CPR. A woman driving by stopped to assist, and the local police, fire department and ambulance soon arrived.

“The fire department used the automated external defibrillator, shocking me three times,” Bill says. “The ambulance crew shocked me three more times and intubated me. Once I arrived at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, they stabilized me to get me ready to fly by Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance.”

Fast and friendly care

Bill has repeatedly been asked the same question when he tells people about his care that day:

“Why didn’t they take you to Sentara Heart Hospital?”

Bill explains:

“Dr. Deepak Talreja, they call him ‘Boy Wonder,’ and he is, lives near Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and it was the closest hospital.”

Bill was rushed to the Cath Lab (the catheterization laboratory) when he arrived, and Dr. Talreja removed a blood clot, inserted two stents and implanted an internal heart pump.

Bill’s heart struggled for a few days. He was kept in a coma as a ventilator helped him breath.

“On the sixth day, I was extubated and taken off the ventilator,” the firefighter explains. His wife, four children and fellow firefighters celebrated.

“The nurses did, too,” says Bill. “They developed a personal relationship with us. They were so good with my family and friends and genuinely cared and did everything they could for us.”

With all he had been through, Bill lost 30 pounds while in the hospital for two weeks. He was concerned about his strength, but Dr. Talreja and the staff at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital Cardiac Lab calmed his worries.

“Dr. Talreja said that I would get back to my former self and that I’d run again in three months,” Bill says. “The Cardiac Lab staff monitored me as I worked out there, and I made progress. I did even better than my doctor thought: I was jogging in six weeks.”