‘Super’ Heart Story: Allen Tuttle Survives a Serious Heart Attack

February 7th, 2021

For most people, 2020 will be remembered as a pretty challenging year.

Allen Tuttle will remember it as the year his daughters saved his life. It was Super Bowl Sunday — Feb. 2, 2020 — when Allen was finishing up some projects around the house before guests arrived for the big game. His wife Marianne noticed his skin color didn’t seem right. “I could tell something was really wrong,” she said. “I went to take him to the hospital, but he collapsed in the driveway.”

While daughter Kaitlyn, a nursing student, started CPR, her sister Heather called 9-1-1. The rest of the Tuttle clan, Justin, Melissa and Olivia, huddled around their dad in the driveway as paramedics worked to resuscitate Tuttle before rushing him to Grand View Hospital. There, the cardiac catheterization lab team, led by James Burke, MD, went to work.

Burke, the Associate Chief of Cardiology from Lehigh Valley Heart Institute, quickly determined that Tuttle, 48, was experiencing a “widow-maker” heart attack. As the name suggests, it is both severe and often deadly, involving a 100% blockage in the heart’s left anterior descending artery.

Friends and family gathered in the waiting room as the heart team worked for hours to save Tuttle. “They kept updating us and it wasn’t good, but they just never gave up,” Marianne says.

While the David M. Flowers Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Grand View Hospital has been open for years, it was November 2019 that the hospital chose to partner with Lehigh Valley Health Institute. “By offering care 24/7/365 to patients experiencing heart attacks, we can save more lives,” says Cindy Westphal, the hospital’s VP of Nursing and Patient Services, who led the initiative. In its first year of 24/7 operations, the hospital treated 45 patients and saved every single life, including Allen Tuttle’s.

“When it comes to the heart, time is muscle,” says Dr. Burke. “The faster we reopen the blocked artery or vessel, the better the heart will pump after the procedure.”

If patients need additional care, they get transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital — Cedar Crest for surgery or other interventions; however, most patients are treated and released from Grand View Hospital. “Great care, close to home. That’s what our community wants and that’s what this partnership makes possible,” adds Westphal.

“There’s no doubt, 2020 has been a challenging year, Tuttle says. “But as I celebrated my kids’ birthdays, our wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, and Christmas, I am just grateful to be here.”