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Heart Survivor Story - Jeff LeDuff

Jeff LeDuffOn December 3, 2020, Jeff LeDuff came down from a ladder after putting up Christmas lights when his wife Sandy noticed how flushed, red and “off” he looked. He felt fine so shrugged it off. After all, he was healthy and active. And a stress test the month before had come back great. It was probably nothing, he thought.

​But after 40-plus years of marriage, Sandy knew something was going on and urged her husband to go get checked out right away. They headed to the ER at Baton Rouge General, sitting in the parking lot for a while. Jeff was scared about being exposed to COVID and still didn’t think anything serious was going on. But when tingling and pain began suddenly in his shoulder area, he decided to head inside. It turns out the former chief of police was having a heart attack.

Jeff’s dad had died at age 59, four years after having a quadruple bypass. Because of the family history, Jeff began seeing a cardiologist at age 40 for regular check-ups. He stayed active, working for many years as a motorman with BRPD before eventually serving as chief of police from 2004 until his retirement in 2010. He didn’t drink or smoke, but he was a longtime user of chewing tobacco.

In the ER, Jeff found out that one of his arteries was blocked. Normally, doctors would put in a stent, which is a tiny device commonly used to keep the artery open. But once he was in the cath lab, doctors couldn’t put in a stent because the plaque in his artery was too hardened from years of chewing tobacco usage. He stayed overnight at the hospital and had a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure the next morning to fix the issue. Doctors connected Jeff’s left internal mammary artery and left anterior descending artery to open the heart’s blood flow.

Not one to sit still, Jeff insisted on sitting up soon after getting to his room in the ICU. Each day in the hospital, he got fully dressed and tried to be as active as possible. When it was time to head from the ICU to a regular room, he didn’t want to wait for patient transport to bring him in a wheelchair. He wanted to watch the Saints game and was determined to get to his new room in time. With staff by his side, he walked it himself, calling it is “victory walk.” (bonus: the Saints won that day)

December 3 was another milestone for him -- he quit dipping that day, after almost 50 years. It wasn’t easy, but he took his health scare to heart. These days, Jeff spends time working with his son Kelly on their training and consulting business, Open Eyes; riding motorcycles; and cheering on his grandkids in softball and baseball.

He also shares his story any chance he gets, emphasizing that with his heart attack, he didn’t have the tell-tale signs you hear about – like the feeling of an elephant on your chest or being short of breath. Even if you think you’re healthy, you never know and when something is off, you have to take action.