Mark Rusin

Mark and Marcie Rusin no longer take life for granted. After Mark survived a heart attack and subsequent weeklong coma, the two are happy to be together. They are making the lifestyle changes necessary to live a long and healthy life.

Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

Doctors, nurses and the medical staff at Oro Valley Hospital are being credited for giving Mark Rusin a second chance at life.

Rusin, 56, is not going to be taking life for granted, especially after escaping death.

Rusin says on July 15, he woke up feeling poorly, noting that he hadn’t felt like himself for at least three days.

“I just wasn’t feeling right all week. Marcie (Rusin’s wife) was on me, saying I should go get checked,” he said. “Me being hard headed, I didn’t know if I had nausea. Friday is when it really started.”

With a pressure on his chest, Rusin says around 3 p.m. Friday he couldn’t breathe and drove himself to Oro Valley Hospital, which he admits wasn’t the smartest idea. But his wife was at their Oro Valley restaurant, The Loop Taste of Chicago, and the pain became intense, and he didn’t think he had any other choice.

He arrived not a moment too soon. While the hospital’s front-desk clerk asked for his personal information during check-in, Rusin dropped to his knees. He was having a full-blown heart attack.

Things took a turn for the worse. Dr. Gregory Koshkarian didn’t waste time. The cardiologist put Rusin on the operating table.

Shortly after, Rusin’s heart stopped. Marcie remembers the frightening moment when the doctors told her half of Rusin’s heart was not functioning. Soon, he was put into a medically induced coma.

With a breathing tube and life-support keeping him alive, Rusin remained in a coma for five days.

In that time, Marcie said Rusin continued to struggle to stay alive, with continued problems in his lungs, heart and kidneys. With machines, ventilators and 28 lines of medication keeping him alive, Marcie says things weren’t looking good.

“His lungs aren’t clearing, he gets pneumonia, and the next day the kidneys go down,” Marcie said. “His body just kept shutting down, and at one point they tell me it’s time to call the family. When they say call the family, death is imminent.”

Rusin’s family drove in from Las Vegas and California to visit him in the hospital. Meanwhile, Marcie started worrying because neither of them in 25 years of marriage had written a will or discussed what they would want after death.

“It was horrible. You think the man you’ve loved for 25 years is going to die,” she says. “Your mind goes 100 miles an hour, you think of the craziest things. You think of the cats because we don’t have any children.”

Then just like that, everything changed. At 1 a.m. on July 20, Rusin flatlined. Marcie described doctors and nurses rushing into his room and closing the curtain. The medical staff used defibrillating paddles to electronically shock Rusin’s heart, and his heartbeat returned. Soon after, his organs started regaining functions, and his prognosis, while still serious, improved.

“The doctors were wonderful,” said Rusin. “The whole staff was amazing. That’s where I give all the credit.”

Rusin was released to a rehabilitation facility 11 days after checking himself into the Oro Valley Hospital. He was back home three days later.

“It was miraculous to come out of this and get out of there five days after I had been in a coma,” said Rusin. “I just feel fortunate to have dodged a bullet.”

Marcie said she’s still not convinced everything is OK, noting that most cases like this have repeat heart complications in the first year.

As a couple, the Rusins agree that Mark’s heart attack was a wake-up call to get a will in place, and as uncomfortable as it might be, discuss what should happen after death.

For Rusin, this second chance at life means overhauling his lifestyle, from exercise and diet to maintaining acceptable levels of stress in managing the couple’s restaurant.

“I know I almost died,” said Rusin. “I am looking forward to the changes. Changes will be good. They are something I’ve needed. This is just going to force me to make those changes.”

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