‘If it weren’t for Him and prayer, I would not be here right now’

For American Heart Month, Dr. Lance Boyd recounts his heart attack, recovery

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Left to right are Trett Hardman, Sadie Hardman, Walt Hardman, Lance Boyd, Kristi Boyd, Truman Boyd and Alicia Boyles. (Courtesy of Amber Black)

“Mom, God has this!” Those are the words that still go through Dr. Lance Boyd’s mind each day. Words his daughter Sadie said as she and the family were in the midst of Boyd experiencing a traumatic heart attack. Those words proved to be the difference as the family remained calm and worked together to do what had to be done in those moments- resulting in Boyd being able to tell his story today.

Boyd has dedicated his life to teaching. He has served as a principal and coach at Fairview, a professor at Wallace State Community College and now a teacher at Cullman Christian School. He teaches many subjects, including biology, physics and math. Above all that, he has dedicated himself to God and teaching others about Him

Boyd was just 49 years old when he suffered a heart attack that many refer to as a “widowmaker.” He said he always listened to his doctors, took care of his body and described himself as active and athletic. Despite his healthy lifestyle choices, family history indicated that a heart attack was a very real possibility.

“I come from an athletic background. I was taught to take care of your body and I was one to never even take Tylenol. I would only drink water, milk and buttermilk. All these years, I have taken care of my body,” he said. “I come from a gardening background and grow my own produce. We would put up vegetable soup and eat healthy and did what my doctors told me to do. If they told me to eat an egg sandwich for breakfast, that’s what I did. I think that’s one of the reasons I am still here on this Earth.”

Boyd’s father had a stent put in when he was around 50, and others in his family experienced heart attacks or developed heart problems around the same age. Boyd said he thought he was a year or so out before he should begin undergoing tests on his heart, but his heart attack occurred before those tests could happen.

Boyd recalled how the events unfolded, saying, “It was on Dec. 10, 2018. I was teaching at Wallace State Community College and I had been there for about 17 years. I had just given finals that day and was feeling good. I was about to get out for Christmas break and planning on going duck hunting with my son and son-in-law. I was just excited.”

Boyd went home and did some chores around the house while his daughter, who was expecting her first child, stopped by to wrap some presents.

He continued, “I was just on cloud nine. I was tired like I usually am. I am the type of person that is high adrenaline and always on the go and always have been. I went to bed around 8:30 and that’s really the last thing I remember for almost a week and a half.”

He doesn’t recall the next series of events, but he got up an hour after he went to bed. When he did, he collapsed.

“My son was in the basement and my wife was in the living room, and in the bedroom, I had got up and fell face first,” he said. “My son, he came up and thought his mom had dropped something. He came into my bedroom and I was face down with a busted mouth and head.”

Boyd said the biggest blessing in all that happened next was his family members and their ability to remain calm when faced with a crisis. “None of them panicked. I still don’t think they told me everything that happened, but my son, Truman, immediately called my son-in-law, Trett Hardman.”

Hardman was less than a mile away and due to being a coach at Fairview, Hardman knows CPR.

“Trett started CPR and you know, they say, if you do it right, you are probably going to crack some ribs. He did it right because I was still sore even after my heart attack,” Boyd laughed.

Truman Boyd called the paramedics and Hardman continued CPR until the paramedics from Gold Ridge arrived to take over and transport Boyd to Cullman Regional.

“I didn’t have a pulse for 40 minutes, so I was being kept alive through CPR. I was shocked four times in the house and twice in the vehicle outside,” Boyd said.

“All of those people, they never gave up on me. That’s one thing I have always told my students, I had a 75% rule and I still do, and I still teach to this day. I always told them if they make below a 75 on a test, I am going to do anything I can to help you. So many of those nurses were my former students and they didn’t give up on me.”

At Cullman Regional, the decision was made to fly Boyd to Huntsville. There, he was treated by Dr. Henry Chen. Doctors were not sure Boyd would regain brain function, or his ability to walk or talk.

“It was the left anterior descending artery, and he had put a stent in. They had chilled my body down like they do to keep your organs going,” said Boyd. “They didn’t know if my organs would or could come back.”

Boyd’s wife Kristi told him that soon people began showing up to the hospital and texts and calls were coming in to let the family know that prayers were being lifted up.

“She said that she was getting texts and my family was getting texts and it was like nothing they had experienced before. Of course, I am out of it at this point, but to know that we live in a community where they think of others like Cullman does… I’ve had several opportunities to take different jobs at different places, but I just never felt at peace about leaving,” said Boyd. “I wanted to raise my kids here, and that is just one example of just what a special place we live in here in Cullman.”

Nurses from different floors and family and friends of other patients at the hospital came to Boyd’s room and prayed.

“They would hear about what a spirit was coming out of that room,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons I am here is because of those prayers and God wasn’t finished with me. The alternative would have been I was in Heaven, but now, I still get to help people on this Earth. I have a new grandson and I have been able to be with him, that little rascal Walt.”

Two days after he suffered his heart attack, doctors planned to remove him from much of the equipment to see how he would respond. Churches from throughout the community continued to pray, and two hours before the scheduled removal, Boyd opened his eyes as his sister-in-law held his hand and whispered to him, “Lance, I need you.”

It was the first of many indications that Boyd would indeed regain all of his abilities.

Two weeks later, he returned home just before Christmas, but there were still obstacles and tough days.

“I couldn’t do anything. I was down to about 160 (pounds) and was at 205 for many, many years” he said. “I couldn’t even watch TV, and smells, oh my, that just made me so sick. My son, bless his heart, that’s what hurts so much is just knowing that they were hurting and having to see me through that. I was always Dad, but now, they were having to take care of me. I still tear up thinking about that, but I think it made them stronger. I was finally able to get on a walker and I always think of Coach Talley and Couch Burns at Hanceville and how they taught us toughness and how to handle adversity.”

Boyd needed that toughness as he faced his next challenge- cardiovascular rehabilitation at Cullman Regional.

He said of the staff there, Rixie, Kelly and Patty, ”They are special people!” He added, “There was one of the times, Rixie told me after two or three times there, ‘Lance, you gotta walk that,’ and I just remember thinking, ‘There’s no way I can do that.’ I prayed and said, ‘God, this is one of those times when I’m not going to be able to do this now. I’m going to fall on my face!’ Rixie, she knew what she was doing, and she knew she had to push me just like you would in sports.”

He continued, “It was just one of those times in your life when you feel Jesus standing there holding your hand. That’s one of my favorite songs, ‘Down of my knees, I learn to stand. I can’t even walk without you holding my hand.’ I was doing that song the whole time I was going around that track. It’s one of those tasks when I felt so close to the Lord at that time.”

Boyd’s wife gave him a favorite scripture that he now reads every morning and every night. It is placed on his nightstand next to his Bible- Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous.”

He said, “The other verse that I go to all the time that helped me get through it is Colossians 3:23, and this is what I tell each of my students, that it’s one of my favorite verses and I try to live it each day- ‘And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men.’ The person you are in front of at the moment, God has put there for a reason.”

Today, Boyd is doing much better and no longer has any restrictions. “It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle and it’s my goal that what I said will bring someone closer to the Lord,” he smiled. “The reason I am still here is to use my story to help bring people to the Lord. If it weren’t for Him and prayer, I would not be here right now.”

Boyd retired from Wallace State in 2018 and soon after, he received a call.

He shared, “One of my former students and favorite people, Josh Swindall- boy, he is wonderful- he asked me to come teach for him. I prayed about it and asked the Lord and had peace about it, so I have been teaching at Cullman Christian School now for my second year. I don’t know what the future holds or me, but I am 51 and I can’t find anything in Proverbs that says anything about retiring. So, I am going to do everything I can as long as I live and am able to do it, wherever the Lord needs me to help people.”

According to Boyd, his heart attack was linked to family history, so he urges people to be aware and act if there is a history of heart disease or heart attacks in their families.

“Preventive medicine and having good insurance where you can go and get the screenings are so important for people to do. Knowing your family history is so important. Go get the tests done and don’t put it off. It’s so important. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” he said.

While Boyd doesn’t know if his heart attack could have been prevented, he credits his lifestyle prior to the event for his ability to withstand it.

“My body and heart were so strong. My lifestyle, being a Christian, when you are a Christian, your body is a temple for God. I have never smoked or drank,” he said. “What you take in and how you treat your body, it paid off for me and would for anybody.”

Boyd works outside in his garden and is very active. He bought a treadmill and walks at least 30 minutes a day. He is now able to play with his new grandson.

“He’s going to be 2 on March 4 and it has been such a blessing to be able to know him,” he smiled. “Just like my son and being able to watch him graduate from Wallace and now he is about to graduate from Athens in logistics. Also, to see so many people become closer to God through my experience. That’s just such a blessing, and some have said they are back in church now. Some, I don’t even know about, might have gotten a check and prevented their heart attack.”

Boyd urges people to smile and live by his daughter’s favorite verses, Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

February is American Heart Month. Learn more at www.heart.org

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com