Sacramento man has heart attack while skiing, another while recovering

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A Sacramento man is counting his blessings after surviving a heart attack on top of a mountain and spending a majority of the pandemic trying to recover.

Peggy and Jim Hays have been married for 20 years. They say there’s never a shortage of adventures in their household.

“We’re both traveling and adventure junkies,” Jim Hays said. “We decided ‘Oh, it’s time to go to Jackson Hole and go skiing,’ and it was just an incredible trip. Right up until the point it wasn’t.”

At the beginning of 2020, Jim Hays says he lost all memory of what happened.

“We stopped, there was this giant yeti statue. We took a selfie in front of the giant yeti statue. That’s where I started saying, ‘I’m kind of tired. I’m not feeling very well.’ I’m sure something was already happening at that point,” Jim Hays recalled.

As a medical professional, Peggy Hays said her instincts kicked right in.

“He literally just dropped over on his left side like a tin soldier,” Peggy Hays said. “Just kept his airway open with my thumbs because he was still breathing. His heart was still beating.”

Doctors told Peggy Hays that Jim suffered an aneurysm, which lead to a heart attack.

For the next month, Jim Hays continued to fight for his life at a heart transplant institute at the University of Utah, all while the coronavirus pandemic started to affect the country.

Doctors implanted an Impella, the world’s smallest heart pump, to allow his injured heart to rest and recover.

Eventually, Jim Hays was well enough to go home.

“I was so focused on Jim and hour to hour, ‘What was happening to him?’ I was like ‘What? Pandemic?’ I had no clue,” Peggy Hays said.

When they finally got back to Sacramento, Jim Hays had another heart attack.

“Doing it once in a lifetime, but twice, we don’t even know what the percentage of coming out of hospital heart attack is,” Peggy Hays said.

Now Jim Hays is doing great and has found a new appreciation for his life.

“I would tell you that this brought us closer together as husband and wife,” Jim Hays said.

After this last year, the adventures continue for the Hays.

“I’m actually hoping that I can get healthy enough to actually take the sailboat from the Mediterranean all across the Atlantic to the Caribbean,” Jim Hays said.

Doctors only gave Jim a 5% chance of surviving and even if he recovered, they said he might have brain damage.

Peggy Hays says Jim now has an even better memory than her, following his recovery.

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