Michael Starr: Generosity of time and spirit
There are usually one of two outcomes when a patient arrives in Mike’s condition: brain damage or death. He had been about five minutes away from a different fate.
According to Mike, “Somebody was watching over me that night. I decided that I wanted to give something back to the hospital.”
Emanate Health Foundation Trustee Michael Starr remembered the day after Christmas 2008 like it was yesterday. He was at home having a quiet evening with his wife, Sharon, when his heart suddenly began to race. Mike tried taking some deep breaths, he took some aspirin, but nothing helped. So Sharon rushed him to Emanate Health Foothill Presbyterian Hospital.
As they arrived at the Emergency Department, a nurse gave him some paperwork to complete. The room appeared to get dark as he felt increasingly lightheaded. The medical team sprang into action. A seasoned Emergency physician gave Mike an injection of an anti-arrhythmic medication in an attempt to restore a normal heart rate. When that didn’t help, the doctor placed the paddles on Mike’s chest and asked everyone to step back.
“I could see my legs fly up and, in a matter of about 15 seconds, the room got all bright,” Mike recalls.
A normal resting adult heart rate can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. That night, Mike’s heart rate was 236. Thankfully, the shock to his heart restored its normal rhythm.
Mike later learned that what he had experienced — tachycardia — sometimes causes no symptoms. Left untreated, it can lead to conditions such as stroke, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest.
After being transferred to the Heart Center at Emanate Health Inter-Community Hospital days later for an angiogram, doctors found no blockage to cause Mike’s heart episode. He later had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) surgically implanted to monitor his heartbeat and detect any increases in heart rate. If necessary, it can deliver calibrated electrical shocks to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
Over a decade later, Mike continues to have regular check-ups with his cardiologist, but his ICD has never been triggered.
A GREATER PURPOSE
Although the explanation for his heart episode may be unclear, Mike’s inspiration for giving back is anything but. “I got to thinking, what if it had been a doctor who didn’t have the experience that mine did? Would it have been the same result?” Mike shared. “I decided that I wanted to give something back to the hospital.”
An avid motorcyclist, Mike began volunteering in the Emergency Department at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in 2009 and remained there for the following eight years. When volunteers became less common in the Emergency Department, Mike transitioned to become a Spiritual Care volunteer at Inter-Community Hospital based on a staff recommendation and continues in this role today.
“I’ve enjoyed spiritual care a lot,” Mike relayed. “They [patients] will open up to you about things they wouldn’t tell their own family.” Mike is honored to be there for patients to share.
He has since become an ordained chaplain and continues in this role at the hospital today.
Mike has also volunteered his time in Foothill Presbyterian Hospital’s Surgical Unit since 2012. In addition, he volunteers his time on the Finance Committee as a member of the Emanate Health Foundation Board of Trustees.
As further demonstration of their commitment to Emanate Health, Mike and Sharon have generously donated more than $50,000 to the organization over the past few years in support of redecorating a private patient room at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, providing a shuttle for the Foothill Presbyterian Hospital parking lot, as well as medical equipment for Foothill Presbyterian and Queen of the Valley Hospitals, and contributing at the Foundation’s annual Autumn Nocturne event.
“I felt that I owed a debt to the hospital I could never repay. Volunteering my time and donating has been a way to feel like I gave something back that was actually valuable.” - Michael Starr