Retired Chickamauga City Manager and Civil War re-enactor John Culpepper faced what could have been the battle of his life and won, thanks to the urging of his wife and paramedics. After shrugging off a day of symptoms that included a racing heart and other ill feelings that were consistent with side effects of a steroid treatment used to treat his sinus problems, Mr. Culpepper, a member of the Hutcheson Medical Center board of directors, decided to seek treatment in the hospital’s emergency department in a move that may have saved his life. Now, he’s telling his story so that others may learn from his experience.
After experiencing a full day of unusual sensations in his chest that eventually escalated to severe chest pain radiating into his jaw and teeth while he was doing yard work, Mr. Culpepper and his wife decided to contact paramedics. To their relief, emergency responders found that his heart sounded normal, his blood pressure was good and an EKG did not detect any problems. Still, they urged him to proceed to Hutcheson for further testing. While Mr. Culpepper believed the sensations in his chest to be related to allergies, he decided to go to the emergency room only because he had a board meeting to attend at the hospital. He drove himself to Hutcheson Medical Center, where testing began immediately upon arrival and detected an elevated enzyme in his blood, indicating an immediate heart problem.
Dr. Ezad Ahmad, a physician who covers cardiology call at Hutcheson, conducted a diagnostic catheterization that detected a 90 percent blockage in an artery leading to Mr. Culpepper’s heart – a condition with life-threatening consequences. Mr. Culpepper was subsequently transferred by ambulance to Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, a hospital that performs interventional caths, and received a stent within ten minutes of arrival.
“If it were not for the paramedics urging and the Hutcheson board meeting, I would not have sought additional medical care and would have suffered a massive heart attack,” said Culpepper, who is admittedly stubborn. After all, he had a complete blood work-up with his regular physician just three weeks before that did not indicate a problem, and he was scheduled to receive a distinguished service award for “Outstanding Community Service for Walker County” from the Fort Oglethorpe Kiwanis Club the following day.
“Mr. Culpepper’s decision to follow his instincts and the advice of medical professionals at home and at Hutcheson allowed us to treat a previously undetected condition,” said Dr. Ahmad. “Now that he’s won this battle, he’s ready to take on a few more. This time, though, they can be as a re-enactor.”
Since his retirement, Mr. Culpepper focuses his time in serving as chairman of the Georgia Civil War Commission and continuing his involvement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr. Culpepper was able to play a significant role in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga last year, which included more than 10,000 re-enactors.