Despite hesitation from friends and family, William O’Rourke—guitarist for David Lee Garza Y Los Musicales—described his experience at Methodist Hospital | Atascosa as a “blessing” when he was admitted after wrecking his vehicle on I-37 Thanksgiving morning.
O’Rourke was on his way back home to San Antonio after performing with the band the night before in Corpus Christi. After stopping at a gas station in George West, he got back on the road and, not even 10 minutes later, experienced his first “episode.”
“I was just driving and felt something come over me. I could feel myself trying to get the car off the road. And then I woke up and was in a field smacked up against a tree with two of these really nice Corpus Christi firefighters,” said O’Rourke. He stated the firefighters saw him swerving between lanes and decided to follow him. Then they saw him wreck his vehicle.
Once admitted to Methodist Hospital | Atascosa, doctors ran every test on O’Rourke to see what caused his “episode” from blood work to sonograms of his heart. They per- formed a sonogram of his heart, a thyroid test, blood tests, and there was no sign of a heart attack; they couldn’t find anything wrong. Doctors said he had one of the “healthiest hearts” they had seen, and his heart structure was also normal. At one point, doctors considered seizures due to fainting, but that was also ruled out.
“I work out, and the guys can tell you that I’m Mr. Fitness, eating my vegetables, working out, the whole nine yards. The doctors said I was the picture of perfect health and didn’t know what was going on,” said O’Rourke. “They were extremely thorough about everything.”
He added that doctors were not comfortable releasing him until they solved the puzzle.
After not finding anything wrong, the team decided to keep O’Rourke to observe him and see if another “episode” occurred so they could figure out the cause. After 24-36 hours in the hospital, out of nowhere, his heart rate spontaneously dropped to 32 beats per minute, making him very weak and sick. A normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. Based on that episode and from what he described happened to him before he was hospitalized, it was clear to the doctors that he needed a pacemaker.
O’Rourke had periods where his heart would beat very slowly, causing him to feel weak, very sick and pass out which is why he crashed his car. A pacemaker keeps the heartbeat regular and prevents it from beating too slow or too fast, keeping the heart rate at the rate the pacemaker is set to.
“I immediately started crying. I couldn’t believe it,” said O’Rourke about first being diagnosed.
The doctors described the issue as strictly electrical, the hardest part of the heart to figure out.
“It’s crazy. And the entire staff at [Methodist Hospital | Atascosa] really went above and beyond to make things comfortable for my family and me. I even told one of the ladies there that they didn’t have the best reputation from the past, and my friends and family were trying to get me out of there. However, my stay was the complete opposite and did not reflect the stories I previously heard,” said O’Rourke.
Please see the separate letter in the graphic within this story that O’Rourke wrote to the staff at Methodist Hospital | Atascosa.
O’Rourke’s wife, Jackie, and son, Will, were also surprised at the level of care they received, and he remembered one nurse in particular who helped him through his fears.
“For me, it was the people that came in, waiting on me. And I’ll be honest, I was scared before the pacemaker was installed,” said O’Rourke. “I was laying there in bed with tears in my eyes, when this attending nurse came in to check my fluids. She looked over at me and said, ‘You know God’s looking out for you, right? You’re going to be OK. It happened for a reason, we figured it out.’ She said, ‘This is a blessing. So you need to be happy. I know you’re scared, but God’s looking out for you.’ I appreciated that so much.”
O’Rourke said from that moment, he knew he was in good hands. He was eventually transferred to Methodist Hospital | Metropolitan in San Antonio where his pacemaker was installed. Now, he continues to go about his life like normal.
O’Rourke has played the bajo sexto—a Mexican string instrument from the guitar family with 12 strings in six double courses—in the Poteet native band, David Lee Garza Y Los Musicales for the past 15 years. Two weeks after moving to San Antonio upon graduating from Angelo State University, David Lee Garza took a chance on the young guitarist. Now, O’Rourke plays the very instrument David Lee played when he was in the band.
“They took a chance on this gringo and it has been a ride ever since,” said O’Rourke, who also teaches 5th grade at Koontz Elementary in San Antonio.
You can see O’Rourke with David Lee Garza Y Los Musicales at the 75th Annual Poteet Strawberry Festival April 22-24. Their newest album, “Solamente Tu,” just released on Feb. 8. O’Rourke also co-wrote Michael Salgado’s newest single, “She Thinks My Name Is Whiskey.”
Continued growth in cardiovascular care
While O’Rourke’s story highlights the high-quality cardiovascular care that Methodist Hospital | Atascosa provides, the rate of heart disease in our community and across the country continues to grow rapidly. According to the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment Report created by the Health Collaborative, 6.4% of those surveyed from Atascosa County have been diagnosed with heart disease, compared to those from San Antonio which totaled 3.3%.
As the need for greater cardiovascular care grows, such as more options for care, treatment and technology, the hospital is making plans to continue its commitment to care by expanding its services once again, and they are excited to announce this during American Heart Month.
Methodist Healthcare plans to grow its resources and infrastructure to support a more robust cardiac program, multiplying the breadth and depth of Methodist Hospital | Atascosa’s services. The purpose of the expansion is to ensure the Atascosa community and beyond have access to a higher level of cardiovascular care.
In partnership with their sister facility, Methodist Hospital | Metropolitan, these new cardiovascular services will be a significant step toward meeting the growing needs for advanced cardiovascular care in the community. Their new plans will build on their current heart services and they will soon add an additional group of cardiovascular physicians to the team. These new physicians will practice at Methodist Hospital | Atascosa and Methodist Hospital | Metropolitan.
While plans are still in the works, the hospital is excited to increase its capacity to care for more heart patients in the community.