Michael Clark’s life changed when he felt an elephant sitting on his chest in February 2007.
No, Clark’s not in the circus. The then-57-year-old Williamsburg man was having a heart attack while cutting down a tree in his yard with an axe. He made his way into his house to lie down on his bed, where his 5-year-old grandson Dominic found him, and reported to his mother, Tara, Clark’s daughter, that something was wrong.
"I vaguely recall being in the hospital (Sentara Williamsburg)," Clark says. "The Nightingale helicopter flew me to the heart center, and I didn’t know where I was when I woke up."
Clark was in Sentara Heart Hospital for a week to recover from triple bypass surgery. "The care was fantastic," Clark says.
"I was treated like a person, not a subject."
Indeed, U.S. News and World Report 2007 ranked Sentara Heart Hospital among the top 50 heart centers in the country—and number one in the region. And, it boasts a mortality ratio superior to eight of the top 10 programs in the nation.
Unfortunately, Clark was in the increasingly large category of people who have no health insurance because, as a retiree living on a fixed income, he couldn’t afford it. He was a mere two days shy of qualifying for insurance at his new job when his heart attack struck.
Because of his situation, Clark qualified for assistance from Sentara, which covered the entire cost of his hospital care. "If they hadn’t paid it, I would have lost my house," Clark says.
Now Clark is optimistic about his future. "Sentara is the best thing that ever happened to me," Clark says. "Without Sentara Healthcare, I don’t know where I would be."