Cardiac Nurse, Heart Attack Survivor: 'It Permeated the Entire Family Dynamic'

Cardiac Nurse, Heart Attack Survivor: ‘It Permeated the Entire Family Dynamic’

Posted on: February 18, 2015

On September 16, 2012, David survived a heart attack. He was only 47 years old at the time.

“That heart attack didn’t just affect me,” he says. “It permeated every aspect of the dynamics between me and my family. It still impacts our lives today.”

David Zeh teaches CPR to Canton, Ohio, resident at Mercy Medical Center

2015 Canton Heart Ball | American Heart Association CantonMeet David Zeh (pictured above teaching a community CPR class), clinical manager for Mercy’s non-invasive cardiac diagnostics lab, manager of Mercy Cardiovascular Institute and our honoree for the 2015 Canton Heart Ball.

A life-long resident of Canal Fulton, Ohio, David grew up with a strong sense of family. He and his wife, Yvonne, and their two sons live on the same property his great grandfather purchased four generations ago.

Importance of Family Influences Career Decisions

This sense of family also played a key role in his decision to become a nurse. When he met Yvonne more than 25 years ago at Walsh University, he chose a career in nursing over one with the U.S. Navy, which would have required him to be at sea for six months every year.

He spent the first decade of his nursing career with Mercy but later moved on to work with other hospitals in Stark and Cuyahoga Counties and consult for a medical company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. After five years, he returned to Mercy.Mercy's David Zeh teaching CPR to community | Canton, Ohio

“Out of all the jobs I’ve had, Mercy has been the most appealing and felt like home, like family. That’s why I returned,” he says.

He adds that his greatest reward in nursing is the ability to work with patients and promote honest communication and honest care.

“It’s important to me to be very truthful with patients,” says David. “I value helping them put everything together so that they understand the impact of their current condition and of positive lifestyle changes that can affect their life going forward.”

In his current role at Mercy, he focuses on supporting the heart center staff in their work.

David says, “When staff members know someone is assisting them, encouraging them and making sure their needs are met, they can provide excellent care for our patients.”

How Heart Attacks Affect Families

David’s first step-father passed away at age 36 from a heart attack, and he remembers that it made a huge impact on his life.Mercy 2015 Heart Ball Honoree David Zeh and Family

Then, in September 2012 – the day after the Stark County Heart Walk and his involvement as team leader for Mercy – David suffered his own heart attack at age 47. Grateful to survive, David discovered first-hand how the results of heart disease continue on long after the treatment.

“That heart attack didn’t just affect me,” David says. “It permeated every aspect of the dynamics between me and my family. It still impacts our lives today. My older son told me later how hard it was to be positive about the situation with grief counselors in the same room with him. A close call with death is something you always remember.”

Yvonne experienced this twice in a little over a year after losing her father to a heart attack in 2011. David performed chest compressions on his father-in-law while riding with the squad all the way to Mercy.Canton Mercy David Zeh, 2015 Canton Heart Ball Honoree

Before his heart attack, David was very physically active, and he has continued this following recovery. Recently, David and younger son climbed Mount Washington in 4.5 hours – a summit of 6,280 feet.

“My message to the community is that heart attacks can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of age and sometimes even health,” he says. “It’s important to know the risks, to minimize them, and to understand the far-reaching effects of heart disease."


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