Decorated war veteran thanks hospital staff for saving his life

Heart Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Aug 1, 2019

As a highly decorated war veteran, Colonel Jim Harding isn’t used to being the one in need of rescue. But when he woke up one day with severe chest pains and trouble breathing, that’s exactly what he needed.

Col. Harding had been fighting chest pain for about a year and a half. He had been diagnosed in Tennessee as having inflammation of the connective tissue between the ribs and breastbone, so he had fought the pain with ibuprofen. After spending Thanksgiving with his family in Cedar Park, TX, he and his wife stopped in College Station to visit family friends, planning to attend the Texas A&M versus LSU football game.

However, the morning of the game, Col. Harding woke up with much more severe chest pains and trouble breathing. He was taken to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – College Station, where staff discovered that he had suffered a heart attack.

“I walked in and said I needed a stronger medicine because my chest was hurting,” said Col. Harding. “And they kept me.” 

After conducting tests to determine what was going on with his heart, his care team determined Col. Harding would need a quadruple bypass surgery and aortic valve replacement. 

Related: After two heart procedures, WWII vet shares incredible story

His sister and two daughters came into town to be there for his surgery, and the procedure lasted over six hours. After a successful surgery, he was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU), where he spent close to two weeks recovering.

“Any opportunity I get to take care of one of our own is fantastic,” Jerry said.

Col. Harding isn’t just any war veteran — he’s the 25th most decorated man in U.S. military history. After entering the Air Force in 1956, he served two tours during the Vietnam War and flew a total of 596 missions. His military career covered a variety of flying assignments as well as command positions and took him all over the world, from the U.S., to England, to Thailand and Vietnam.

He rescued many people during his time in the Air Force but now it was his turn to get rescued. The man with four purple hearts now has a new lease on his own heart.  

He recently returned to Texas to officiate the wedding of one of his granddaughters in the Hill Country. While in the state, he made a special trip back to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – College Station to thank the operating room staff who saved his life. Staff remembered Col. Harding and his family fondly from their visit to the hospital back in November. 

Two of the people who helped care for Col. Harding were also retired veterans. Jerry Webb, director of nursing in Brenham, was in the room with Col. Harding that day.

“Any opportunity I get to take care of one of our own is fantastic,” Jerry said.

Thank you, Col. Harding, for your service, and for letting us be part of your journey back to health.

Related: How innovative brain surgery ended tremors for this Navy veteran with Parkinson’s

If you’re experiencing chest pain, don’t brush it off. Talk to a doctor today.

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