Lee’s Summit construction worker survives rare heart disease after heart stopped twice

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — As heart awareness month continues, one man is hoping to educate and raise awareness about the unexpected dangers of the disease, one of the leading causes of death in America.

“With the fever and what I had, symptoms, I thought I had the flu,” 34-year old Ryan Harshner said.

Two months ago, Harshner said he was fighting for his life. It all started with heartburn. When the symptoms worsened, Harshner’s wife eventually called 911.

He found himself at Saint Luke’s East, then Saint Luke’s on the Plaza. His heart stopped twice.

“Whenever somebody heart stops and they require CPR, that’s a life or death situation, and unfortunately, not everybody survives that,” St. Luke’s Cardiologist Dr. Adam Fleddermann said.

Doctors determined that a virus went to Harshner’s heart and caused the issue — an extremely rare condition and serious form of heart failure.

“If it would have been another hour, we would have been in big trouble,” Dr. Fleddermann said.

Harshner was ultimately put on ECMO for a week, a form of life support, to help support his heart and lungs. Saint Luke’s is one of the few hospitals in the region experienced with the device with survival rates above the national average.

Amazingly, his heart was able to regain enough strength and get back to normal with no damage.

Today, he is every doctors’ testimony.

“When I met Ryan, to put it frankly, I mean, he appeared gray, his blood pressure was very low and at one point he required CPR,” Dr. Fleddermann said. “After seven days on ECMO, he was taken off. He did very well, and now, remarkably, he is back to his usual state of health.”

Today, he continues to defy all odds. He said he is thankful to be alive and thankful for every doctor at Saint Luke’s who played a part. 

Harshner, who said he rarely got sick before and was always generally healthy, said he also hopes his story can save a life.

“Everyday has been better, progressing. There are still times I get fatigued, but other than that, it’s been good,” Harshner said. “Listen to what your body has to say. If you don’t feel well, even if you feel like it’s a minor thing, see a doctor. Go to the emergency room because that little thing could be a major thing.”

Symptoms of heart problems can range from shortness of breath, chest pains to fatigue. Doctors say, if you are unsure or believe something doesn’t feel right, get checked out immediately.

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