Pittsfield man thankful to be alive following ‘phenomenal’ coronary care coordination

Larry Leavitt, 60, of Pittsfield, feels doubly blessed to be alive after suffering a heart attack last summer.

Leavitt was digging fence post holes with his brother, Ken, when he said he felt sudden chest pains. “I knew something was wrong,” said the former smoker who had been under a doctor’s care in recent months for a minor arterial blockage. He instructed Ken to call 911 as he assessed his situation.

By the time EMTs arrived, however, his chest pain had subsided. Leavitt had taken a nitroglycerin pill and felt much better so he sent them away. Big mistake.

Within minutes, his chest pain returned with a vengeance. “It slammed me hard, put me right down to the living room floor,” he recalled. After the EMTs returned a second time, the last thing Leavitt recalled was being loaded into the ambulance.

During the ambulance ride and upon arriving at Berkshire Medical Center, EMTs and doctors used a defibrillator 15 times to revive him, Leavitt was later told. “They worked on me for an hour. No one thought I was going to make it.”

Once stabilized, he was airlifted to Albany Medical Center. There he was rushed into Interventional Cardiology, where doctors inserted a stent into his blocked left anterior descending artery. Among medical experts, a blockage in that particular coronary artery is often referred to as the ‘widow maker.’ Leavitt was lucky to be alive, his doctors later told him.

Leavitt spent five days recovering at Albany Medical Center, including two days in the Intensive Care Unit. “The nurses were tremendous,” he said. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Leavitt felt completely safe. “I didn’t feel concerned at all.”

Several months later, Leavitt is back to work full-time as a physician assistant at a Pittsfield clinic. Work on the fence from that fateful day remains unfinished. Leavitt said it can wait until this spring.

Today, Leavitt remains extremely grateful to the first responders, Life Net helicopter crew and medical professionals in two states who didn’t give up on him when the odds of his survival seemed long. “All the resources that came together were phenomenal,” he said reflectively. “Berkshire Medical saved my life and then Albany Medical Center saved it a second time.”