Self-defense enthusiast Ken Jones beat a “widow maker” heart attack with expert care at UMC Brackenridge.

He was 49 and in good shape. Two to three times a week for the past seven years, he practiced Krav Maga, a unique self-defense and hand-to-hand combat technique. But during a lunchtime workout on January 27, the last thing Ken Jones, father of two boys, recalls saying was, “I hate these burpees.” Then he fell hard to the floor.

“My workout partner Luis, who is a former Marine, told me that at first he thought I was joking, but then he saw my lips were purple. It was serious.”

Luis began CPR and a fellow classmate started rescue breathing. When EMS arrived, it took three electrical shocks with “the paddles” to restart Ken’s heart.

When he arrived at the emergency department at University Medical Center Brackenridge, Ken was responsive and told the doctors he was having a lot of trouble breathing. His lungs on the X-ray were completely white, indicating they were full of fluid.

“That’s certainly not what you want to see. Those were very tense, very serious moments for me and my wife Amy. I was intubated at that point.”

Ken’s heart held a silent threat. Over time, plaque had collected in his left anterior descending artery — the artery with the dubious distinction of “widow maker” due to low survival rates following heart attacks. A portion of plaque in the artery wall had ruptured followed by a clotting frenzy as his body naturally tried to heal the damage. The clot had suddenly cut off blood supply to Ken’s heart.

“If I had not been around people ready and willing to act, like Luis, this would have been a very different outcome. And had I not been taken to UMC Brackenridge so quickly and surrounded by an expert team, including interventional cardiologist Dr. Osvaldo Gigliotti, I wouldn’t be here. The Brack team was on it.”

Dr. Gigliotti placed a stent to open up Ken’s blocked artery. He recovered in the ICU for a few days. His incisions took time to clot as a result of the blood thinners he was taking.

“Those nurses in the ICU were always monitoring me, there by my side holding pressure to help stop the bleeding. They don’t always get the thanks they deserve, but I won’t forget them or their faces.”

Ken was ready to go home only four days after his heart attack. And amazingly he started back to work part-time three days later. He then started a new workout — cardiac rehabilitation — where the treadmill, bike and elliptical machine were his companions three days a week. He changed his diet too, and proudly shares that he’s now at the same weight he was in high school.

“For some reason I was kept around and am blessed to have been given a second chance. I come to work happier and don’t let the small stuff get to me. Every day, I tell my sons Matt and Josh, and Amy, that I love them. I take time to take in life. I’m a happy person, and full of gratitude for the great care I got at UMC Brackenridge.”

Less than two months after Ken’s ordeal, he was able to celebrate his 50th birthday with his wife and kids, dad, brother, and extended family. He ordered a salad with grilled chicken. And he was happy.


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