Four 2 Five: A YMCA blood pressure machine and member saved this 83 year old's life

After no symptoms, a blood pressure machine and quick thinking by a fellow YMCA member caught Jim Hegner's low pulse and saved his life.

Author: Maddie Gardner

JAMESTOWN, N.C. — How many times have you walked past a blood pressure machine and never thought to sit down and see what your vitals are? After years of checking his stats a Greensboro man says a machine like that at his local YMCA, and the quick thinking of a fellow member, saved his life.

For the last eight years, 83 year old Jim Hegner’s been hitting the Ragsdale YMCA gym a few times each week.

"I work out for about an hour and 15 or 20 minutes," he said. 

Before his work begins he makes a pit-stop at the often-overlooked machine on the side wall to take down his blood pressure and heart rate for his doctor. Three months ago Hegner’s heart rate wasn’t adding up.

"When I came out, Dec. 2, everything was normal," he said. "Two days later I came in and went through the same routine on the machine and the post rate had gone from 64 to 37."

He thought the machine broke. 

"I thought that maybe the machine needed to be calibrated because they have to calibrate this machine every quarter."

A fellow YMCA member and nurse, Lacey Armistead, checked his pulse and confirmed the worst.

"She said, 'that’s what your pulse rate is it’s 37 and that is much much too low so you need to contact your doctor.'"

Hegner had surgery to put in a pacemaker. His heart rate by that time was 25 beats per minute - so low doctors weren’t able to give him anesthesia. 

"I’m 83 years old and this heart has worked perfectly for that 83 years why on December 4 did it stop working perfectly?" he asked his doctor.

That pacemaker can’t hold Hegner down. He’s already back at the Y doing his workout routine that still begins at the blood pressure machine and keeps a very helpful, lifesaving workout buddy in mind.

"The blood pressure machine is a good friend of mine and now Lacey is a good friend of mine to since she interpreted what that blood pressure machine was telling me and put me on the right path to recovery."

Hegner says his dad died of heart failure at 84 and wonders if that’s what would have happened to him. He also pointed out that he had no symptoms of a low heart rate, like dizziness, slowness or confusion. The machine and Armistead were the only indicators that something was wrong. 

This story originally appeared here on WFMY News 2's website.