Huntington resident Jepsen makes the ultimate comeback from cardiac arrest

Sue (left) and John Jepsen sit together in their home in Huntington. John Jepsen survived cardiac arrest in March.
Sue (left) and John Jepsen sit together in their home in Huntington. John Jepsen survived cardiac arrest in March. Photo by Lauren Winterfeld.

Originally published May 29, 2014.

"It was just God looking after us I guess," says John Jepsen, who was revived after suffering a cardiac arrest in March.

The attack was brought on while he was at Parkview Huntington Hospital waiting to have his gallbladder taken out. His gallbladder ruptured, which caused the attack.

"I went into septic shock," he explains, "and that's what caused my cardiac arrest. I also had renal failure - my kidneys went down too."

It all started a few days earlier when Jepsen, who is 80 years old, came down with a bit of a backache and some nausea.

"I took an Aleve," he explains, "It didn't seem to help and I felt sort of nauseous, so I said, I want to go to the hospital and run some tests.

"I went in the next day, spent all day there, and they concluded at the end of the day that I had gallstones."

Jepsen says he was advised to schedule a surgery to have his gallbladder removed the following week, but was warned by his doctor who said, "If you start running a fever, please come back."

"Well, that night I got the shakes like you can't believe," he says, "I didn't take my temperature but I am sure I had a high fever. So we went the next morning, and that afternoon they decided the gallbladder was in pretty bad shape.

"And rather than wait, they had to take it out that weekend. But, because I had had a heart attack earlier (in 1994), they felt that they should go to the regional hospital, rather than do it there (at Parkview Huntington Hospital).

"So, I was sitting there, and I decided I had to go to the bathroom, so I stood up, and on the right I saw a big black box, with red crosses flashing like this," he motions with his hands, "and I went down.

"That's when I had cardiac arrest."

Jepsen says the hospital staff that revived him explained to him that there was no black box in his room that displays a flashing red cross.

"But I remember that," he says, "I didn't see any white lights though. Just a black box with a red cross."

Jepsen says the people who saved his life were "excellent."

"The treatment I got there was just outstanding," he says, "I can't tell you enough nice things about them, and how well they took care of me."

Jepsen says he went back after he was released from the hospital, and he was able to visit the staff members who revived him.

"It is kind of nice to see the people who saved your life," he says.

The entire incident was, as Jepsen describes it, "a fluke."

"You hear about gallstones you know, and the horrible pain.

"I had no pain... I shouldn't have even gone to the hospital, but I said, something is different, and I think we should go. Otherwise, we would've been home, and I probably would've died here."

Jepsen recovered fully, after a four-day hospital stay to monitor his kidney function after the gallbladder surgery.

He says he wasn't sore from the surgery, but the worst pain was in his chest - most likely from the pounding he endured during CPR.

Now, he is back to normal, and spent the last week playing golf with his visiting grandson.

Jepsen, who is an avid golfer, says he lives a pretty active lifestyle, "I just said the other day, ‘I think it is finally time for me to switch to the Senior (golf) tees.'"

"I remember when I checked out of the hospital the doctor said, ‘You can play golf anytime you want as far as this gallbladder is concerned,'" Jepsen says.

"The gallbladder turned out to be the least of the things wrong," adds his wife of 14 years, Sue Jepsen. "Out of all the other things - even his skin reacted to the tape from his dressings," she says.

"I was a teacher," she says, "Through this, I figured out I did not miss my calling in not being a nurse. This is not my cup of tea," she laughs.

"But that's why I was so impressed with the people," she adds, "They were always cheerful about doing things that no one else really wants to do."

The lesson, John says, "Is that if something doesn't feel normal, go to the hospital and have it checked."
Jepsen adds, "Normally I wouldn't have (gone to have this checked.) But something just said, ‘Go in.'

"I had no reason to go to the hospital -absolutely no reason to - but I just felt that I should."

"That thought came from somewhere," adds Sue, "Somewhere other than John, because he would've rejected it. That's the way I see it."

"But, everything is back to normal," says John, and in the coming months he is looking forward to visiting his son in Alaska, and a second-home Lake Tahoe to fish.