Local Principal Donates as Thanks for Care

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Timmy Allen is many things to the people in his life, including a father, husband, friend, and the principal of Birchland Park Middle School in East Longmeadow. Today, Timmy, 43, also adds “heart attack survivor” and advocate to this list.

For Timmy, a vacation on Cape Cod was a way to relax and enjoy time with his family. On a Saturday morning, Timmy headed out for a jog on the beach and not long after he began experiencing some chest pains, which he thought may be heartburn.

The chest pains turned out to be warning signs of a heart attack, and thankfully a quick acting neighbor recognized the symptoms and began CPR on Timmy. Timmy’s condition was dire and the team at Cape Cod Hospital, where he was rushed to by ambulance, knew that he needed specialized care. As a result, he was airlifted to Brigham Hospital.
He spent 40 days receiving around the clock care in the ICU, experiencing ups and downs as new complications emerged and were solved by the team. Following his time at Brigham, he began two weeks of care at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Next on his heart health journey was to come back closer to home and receive rehabilitation at Baystate Health’s cardiac rehabilitation program.

“I got to cardiac rehab at Baystate and immediately I felt cared for, heard, and understood,” shared Timmy. “The nurses and the team knew how to communicate with me and my family, listen to us, and knew what questions to ask. One of the things I learned on this journey is that to be a doctor or a nurse, you need to have incredible medical knowledge, but you also must know how to communicate authentically and honestly in a way that makes people feel better. The team at cardiac rehab was able to do both and that made me feel so good and confident in their care.”

This was important, especially as Timmy experienced chest pains during his orientation into the program. The team immediately stopped and brought in a Baystate Health cardiologist to evaluate him. It turns out, he was having some muscle pains in his chest region and having access to a cardiologist so quickly gave him peace of mind.

“Meeting with the cardiologist on day one was a sign of how responsive the team was,” said Timmy.

We’re Here for You

Highlights in Timmy’s care include some cardiac rehabilitation program team members who went above and beyond, including Exercise Physiologist Expert Heidi Szalai, Nurse Clinician Karly Bruce, and Exercise Physiologist Advanced Sara Michelucci. Sara has even joined in on an advocacy and awareness project close to Timmy’s heart – Timmy Strong.

While Timmy was recovering, his college friends wanted to raise funds to help with medical and other associated costs related to his care. They made Timmy Strong shirts, complete with shamrocks to represent Timmy’s Irish heritage and the phrase “No Surrender,” a reference to the Bruce Springsteen song, which became the rallying cry for Timmy’s recovery. The friends thought they’d sell 50 or 100 shirts, but the cause gained steam and the group ended up raising $99,600.

“When I first woke up after my heart attack and the delirium wore off, it was incredible to see how much was happening with Timmy Strong. It was humbling and beyond amazing,” shared Timmy.

After he and his family were able to cover the costs of Timmy’s care, they had money remaining, so they purchased six automated external defibrillators, which can aid in restoring heart rhythms to normal during a cardiac episode, to be utilized in the community. Timmy also began offering programs that teach people about the importance of CPR and heart-healthy living.

Timmy Today

“I’m doing great today,” said Timmy, who has been cleared to jog, lift weights, and get back to work. He’s still attending cardiac rehabilitation but is advancing through the program and feels optimistic about his future. To show his appreciation for his care, he and his family made a donation through Baystate Health Foundation to support the cardiac rehabilitation program at Baystate Health.

“We want to show our gratitude for what cardiac rehab has been to us and to so many others,” said Timmy.

“Tim’s story has greatly impacted my life in a very positive way and I will forever be grateful to him. He is truly an inspiration and it was an honor that I was able to help in his recovery and see him come out a stronger person,” shared Sara. “I love my job and helping people like Tim certainly makes it memorable. I’m honored that he made a donation to recognize his care at our facility.”

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