The heart of the storm


Imagine being a doctor or nurse, and performing the difficult task of fixing a man’s heart and saving his life. Now imagine doing that while three tornados are outside. That’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago.

Craig Petersen is grateful to be alive after having heart attack. It happened the same Tuesday night severe storms damaged Sioux Falls, and the Avera Heart Hospital.

The signs are everywhere, or in some cases barely there,that some of the worst storm damage is at the Avera Heart Hospital. Outside, the cracks are showing. Tape is covering some of the cracks in some the building’s front windows, holding together some of the weak spots. Inside, is coming face-to-face with the doctor who helped put his heart back together on the same night a tornado tried to tear the hospital apart.

“Well, hello,” Craig said.
“Hello again,” Dr. Jeremy Scott, interventional cardiologist, said.

“I appreciate it. I’m glad you were here,” Craig said.
“Glad to have been here,” Scott said.

“It’s been quite a week,” Craig said.

That’s putting it mildly. Two weeks ago, Craig had a heart attack at his home in Porter, Minnesota.

“I didn’t want to believe it. All I said was, ‘God, can’t be, I don’t need this now,'” Craig said.

Craig had a closed artery. A plane flew him to Avera, where an interventional cardiologist and his team started working on Craig’s heart just as the storm was beginning.

“The doors started to shake a little bit and we could hear air rushing underneath the doors and our ears popped,” Scott said.

“We just saw the roof, the ceiling tiles kind of get sucked up and come back down and the doors just started shaking,” Catlin Currie, registered invasive cardiovascular specialist, said.

Everyone kept their hands steady even when Craig went into cardiac arrest right as the tornado rolled through the area

“And we had to shock him a couple of times,” Scott said.

“While I was on the table, yeah, there was a lot going on outside,” Craig said.

Scott and his team in the cath lab were able to open Craig’s artery with a stent.

“For them to keep going and concentrate on the patient they had in front of them. I don’t know if lights went out at what point, I’m sure they knew something was going on,” Craig said.

“These procedures take all of your concentration, and so I think most of us don’t notice a whole lot of other things that are going on outside the procedure itself,” Scott said.

While they saved Craig’s life in this room, someone else was in a waiting room. Craig’s wife, Patricia Petersen, was hoping and praying for two storms to pass.

“We saw tree branches being thrown against the windows, and then all of a sudden it went dark,” Patricia said.

Patricia isn’t exaggerating when she says it feels like she’s known her husband her whole life. She has.

Patricia “Actually, we were babies in our crib together, back when our dads were in the army.”

Craig: “We were born in Fort Knox.”
Patricia: “Fort Knox, Kentucky.”

Now they have four kids, eleven grandchildren, and 47 years of marriage between them.

“He asked me, he said, what would it be like if you were living alone. I says I wouldn’t like it. I’m glad you’re still here with me, I said,” Patricia Petersen said.

It’s clear, during Craig’s procedure, two hearts were on the line that night.

“It just means more to be having a second chance,” Patricia said.

The Petersens say the doctors and nurses deserve all the credit.

“I had faith in the doctors and I had faith in God that he would be ok,” Patricia said.

Just don’t call them heroes.

“We just kept on, kept on working, and didn’t really know exactly what happened until afterwards,” Scott said.

“It’s just another day at work, this is what we train for,” Currie said.

“Thank God they were there to do what they had to do,” Craig said.

Whether it’s a team of people who save lives, or a heart, sometimes even the worst damage makes everything and everyone stronger.

“I think we’ll spend more time together than him always busy and me always busy,” Patricia said.

“Material things in life don’t mean anything. Family. So, things will change. Yeah,” Craig said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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