Local veterinarian becomes a patient in extraordinary circumstance

February 18, 2020
Local veterinarian Scott Schwarting of Aspen Animal Hospital followed his usual Thursday evening routine of going to the gym to take his favorite fitness class — except for one evening recently that turned out to be extraordinarily unusual.

“When I got home from the gym, I felt tightness and pain in my chest that I couldn’t relieve by sitting or lying down,” Scott recalled. “Minutes later, while I was on the phone with a colleague, the thought suddenly struck me: ‘I think I am having a heart attack.’”


Living only four minutes from Aspen Valley Hospital’s After-Hours Medical Care in Basalt, Scott immediately went there, where the After-Hours staff administered oxygen, Quick read more or view full article checked his vitals and ran an ECG as they prepped him for an ambulance ride to the hospital. “What started as a seemingly normal visit became extraordinary,” recalled Bruce Bowen, MD, the attending physician that evening.

Attending nurse Cre Donovan, RN, was getting aspirin and an IV for Scott when Scott told Dr. Bowen that he was experiencing jaw pain. Cre quickly got the center’s cardiac cart and attached the heart monitor when Scott suddenly became unconscious. Dr. Bowen began immediate CPR and Tabitha McKinney, radiology technologist, was standing by to apply the breathing, if necessary. “Scott experienced lethal heart rhythm with no pulse depicting clear-cut cardiac arrest,” Dr. Bowen said.

Pictured left to right: Cre Donovan, Dr. Bruce Bowen, Scott Schwarting and Tabitha McKinney

Cre then administered a shock to restart his heart via a defibrillator. “During the second round of CPR, Scott suddenly woke up and said, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘thank you,’” Cre recalled.

Rushed to Valley View Hospital’s catheterization laboratory, Scott underwent surgery Thursday night. “I had one completely blocked artery and required two stents,” he said. Two days later, he was released to return home.


The following week, Scott returned to After-Hours Medical Care to thank Cre, Dr. Bowen and the rest of the staff. “It was very
emotional,” he said. “Just thinking how they were able to save my life was overwhelming. As a veterinarian, I realize they were doing their job; but as a patient, I have a great sense of gratitude and humility.”

The experience was also awe-inspiring for the After-Hours staff. “In my many years of nursing, Scott’s experience presented the worst and best scenarios all in a matter of minutes,” Cre said. “It was an incredible experience to see him alive and well, and it was quite amazing to see the positive results from what we’re doing and practicing.”

“Our staff did a great job jumping in and doing exactly what they needed to do,” Dr. Bowen added. “It was definitely one of the most dramatic and highly gratifying situations we have faced.”

Scott also made a point of reaching out to the ambulance crew chief and the assisting police officer. “They were flabbergasted I was talking with them just five days after the incident,” he said. “The more I relate my experience to others, the more fully I realize that I had a most unusual outcome. I am very fortunate I am alive.”


The week after his release from the hospital, Scott began a 36-session treatment program with AVH’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation team. “Melody Durham, RN, BSN; Julie Puchkoff, MS, CSCS; Jeanne Stough, MS, EP; and Julia Powell, RN, all played big roles in monitoring my health so I could get my energy back and return to a more normal function,” he said.

AVH’s Cardiac Rehab team worked with Scott to develop a customized treatment plan, incorporating light cardio movements initially, including a treadmill, as well as recumbent and upright bikes, rowing machines and elliptical equipment. During the latter stage of Scott’s recovery program, the team added movements from his favorite fitness class.

“The whole team is open, knowledgeable and accommodating,” Scott said. “I was very comfortable during my sessions. My AVH team provided expert, professional guidance and warm, friendly encouragement.”


Scott credits the quick thinking of AVH’s After-Hours Medical Care staff as key to his fast recovery. “Miraculously, I have no adverse effects, particularly relating to neurological functions,” he said. “AVH’s After-Hours Medical Care and Cardiac Rehab provide extraordinary care and excel at what they do.”

Pictured from left to right: Jeanne Stough, Julie Puchkoff, Scott Schwarting and Melody Durham.

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