Lufkin Assistant Fire Chief urging others to get checked out after heart attack

Lufkin Assistant Fire Chief urging others to get checked out after heart attack
The original blockage (Source: Duane Freeman)
The original blockage (Source: Duane Freeman)
After the surgery (Source: Duane Freeman)
After the surgery (Source: Duane Freeman)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Duane Freeman knows the signs of a heart attack. It is something he was taught in his training as assistant fire chief for Lufkin.

However, the training could not prepare him for his own heart attack.

"I didn't have the normal warning signs of a heart attack," Freeman said. "I considered myself a healthy person."

And why wouldn't he? Freeman always wanted to be in shape and ready to help others at a moment's notice. It was not uncommon to find Freeman in the Live Well Athletic Club everyday at lunch time. Freeman would hit the machines and build up a sweat and a little discomfort. In March 2015, that discomfort would not be the result of a tough workout.

"On the second station, I suddenly developed a severe onset of heart pain," Freeman said. "The pain wasn't incapacitating in any way. It was just that my heart hurt."

Freeman said he never thought about taking a rest. He continued his workout for another eight minutes and the pain never went away. Freeman decided he might need to get checked out.

"I didn't want to go to the hospital sweaty, so I took a shower and then drove to CHI," Freeman said.

A quick test was run on the firefighter, and the results were not good.

"The test actually showed that I had 100 percent blockage of my circumflex artery," Freeman said.

Looking back at his ordeal, Freeman admitted driving to the hospital might not have been the safest thing to do.

"I knew that if you were experiencing a medical emergency, you should call 911," Freeman said. "You should seek outside help but when it was happening to me, and at that moment with the symptoms I had, I did not think it was significant."

An emergency procedure was set for Freeman but there was still one thing he had to still do.

"The doctors convinced me that it was time that I needed to call my wife and let her know what happened," Freeman said. "She came up there, and I talked to her for a few minutes, and I remember when they were taking me back for the procedure she looked at the doctor and said, 'Please take care of him, because when he get's out of here I might just kill him' I knew it was jokingly but I also knew she was not very pleased with me for waiting so long to tell her."

Freeman was awake during the emergency procedure and said the pain left him pretty quickly.

"I remember telling the doctor, 'You fixed me. It feels better," Freeman said. "The doctor said, 'Well that's great that you don't have the pain but you are not fixed yet.'"

Another blockage was found in Freeman. In total he would have three stents put in his heart. After the procedure Freeman would be checked into the CHI Cardiac Rehabilitation Center where he would go through several months of rehab under doctor supervision.

"There was some apprehension on my part," Freeman said. "'Can I do this again? If I get my heart rate up and exercise, will I have another heart attack?'"

He would blow those doubts out of the water. Freeman was given an all clear in August that year and would leave the program with the highest results in the center's history. He picture is just one over hundreds that is posted outside as a testimony to those that have survived. Freeman is back at work for the city, and he continues to work out and is back at his old pace.

"If you've taken care of yourself and have a regular exercise program and keep yourself in decent shape then I believe when the unexpected occurs, the significant will be less," Freeman said. "The impact to you will be less. I believe that God has a plan and he kept me around to help out."

Freeman said people should watch out for sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble speaking, trouble seeing, walking dizziness, loss of balance, or a sudden severe headache with no cause. Any of those signs could be caused by a heart attack.

Copyright 2017 KTRE. All rights reserved.