Eddie’s Life, A.D.

Long after ‘death,’ Knoxville man is ‘full of life’


Church was over one Sunday in August 2016 – but not Eddie Thompson’s revival. For that, he had to skip lunch and race to Parkwest Medical Center.


Fortunately, the 70-year-old lumber broker’s cardiac arrest didn’t come until he was inside the emergency department. “Aside from the pain, the worst feeling I ever had in my life was the look in my wife’s eyes when the doctor [emergency physician Strant Colwell, MD] said I was having a heart attack,” said Thompson. “I looked at my wife, my eyes rolled back and – BOOM! I dropped dead.”


He doesn’t know how much time passed before he was revived by Dr. Colwell and Parkwest’s Code Blue team. “Marianne, my wife, said they came out of the woodwork, that bodies came from everywhere. They were on the table with paddles and everything trying to revive me,” said Thompson, who survived the infamous “widow-maker” heart attack. “When I came back alive, I could hear my cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Petit, telling her, ‘He’s not out of the woods yet, but we think he’s going to be all right.’”


Thompson is doing better than “all right” now, thanks to interventional cardiologist Mitchell Weiss, MD, reopening Thompson’s left anterior descending artery with a single stent and thanks to the cardiac rehabilitation program at Parkwest Therapy Center at Fort Sanders West.


Thompson was overweight and had high cholesterol, but blames stress for his heart attack. “I’m wound tighter than a $10 banjo,” he said. “I take everything too seriously.” His diet may have been a greater factor than he’s willing to admit, however.


“I’m famous from one coast to the other for the way I eat. I really love to eat – everything I do revolves around food,” he confessed. “My friends call me ‘Mikey’ (after a popular cereal commercial). When we’re on a trip and they can’t eat the rest of their meal, they’ll say, ‘Just give it to Mikey. He’ll eat it.’”

Cardiac rehab education classes changed that.


“My first impression was, ‘I’ve got to sit in class – I thought that was over years ago!” he said. “But when I started going to class, I learned about the kind of drugs I’m on and their effects, and I learned more than I ever knew about sodium. I’d never even read a food label.”


He says his wife took over the cooking duties and now, “I eat pretty balanced meals – what you call a Roy Green Diet. It’s a hard lesson to learn but hopefully, I’m only going to have to learn it once.”


Thompson said he has always been active, and exercised either at home or at a fitness center where he was a member. “Even when I was heavy, I was active,” he said. “The day before this incident, I was out in the sun digging and chopping. I could outwork anybody, particularly anybody my age.”


He shed 40 pounds as he completed 36 cardiac rehab sessions of education, diet and exercise. Today, more than 18 months after his heart attack, he remains dedicated to his heart health.


“That was all the message I needed,” Thompson said of his brush with death. “I might be wild and crazy, but I’m not stupid. It was a pretty good wakeup call.”


Amy Dale, a registered nurse and certified case manager in Parkwest’s cardiopulmonary rehab program, said Eddie’s work ethic shows in his thrice-weekly workouts.


“Eddie is just so full of life!” said Dale. “He really works hard and he rarely misses a day.”

Thompson’s workout routine is 30 minutes “at a pretty good clip” on both the recumbent bike and treadmill, using the heaviest dumbbells available, and spinning the arm ergometer at such a high level friends say he needs to go kayaking.


“I have no plans to quit coming here,” he said. “I don’t think this is something that is ever ‘over.’ I’m an ‘eataholic’ but I’m doing better. Like I say, I’m wild and crazy – but I’m not stupid.


“I know I need it and I really do like the exercise. And when I go to the doctor every six months, the doctor is thrilled that I am still coming here, too.”


For more information about the cardiac rehab program at Parkwest Therapy Center, visit www.treatedwell.com/cardiacrehab.