How a NurseLine call helped a man seek life-saving medical treatment

Oct. 18, 2020 was a typical night, nothing out of the ordinary for Ody Draklellis and his wife, Jennifer. The Pennsylvania couple met friends for dinner but when they returned home, Ody started experiencing pain in his forearms. He walked around the house in an effort to alleviate the discomfort but that didn’t help. A couple days prior, Ody planted trees so he thought the pain was due to strenuous activity from the yard work.

However, when the pain wasn’t subsiding, Jennifer, a UnitedHealthcare employee, called the Optum® NurseLine — which is available 24 hours a day for members and their families to assist with health questions or medical guidance.

“When I spoke to the nurse, I told her what my husband was experiencing and she directed us to call an ambulance immediately, but he still didn’t think it was that serious,” Jennifer said.

The nurse on the other line was Carol Huot, who has worked with the Optum NurseLine for 25 years, answering more than 100,000 calls.

“You have to stay very calm in a crisis,” Carol said. “If it’s important for our members to call, it’s important for me to make sure they get the information they need.”

It took some convincing but eventually, Ody headed to the hospital around 2 a.m. At the time, things seemed to be calming — Ody said on the way there, he wasn’t experiencing any pain or discomfort.

However, the situation changed quickly.

When Ody arrived at the hospital, he collapsed within 30 seconds of reaching the emergency room registration desk.

Ody suffered a heart attack. He said doctors performed a life-saving procedure to repair a blocked artery. His heartbeat had to be restored five times. Ody was also medically sedated for two days in the cardiac intensive care unit to ensure his brain function would recover.

Miraculously, two weeks later, he walked out of the hospital.

Ody and Jennifer say they are grateful for the doctors who provided life-saving care and to Carol and the NurseLine support, which they say ultimately guided them in the right direction to seek emergency care.

“It was great because that's what really prompted me — and ultimately him, as well — to take the symptoms more seriously,” Jennifer said. “Had the option to call NurseLine not been available to us, he would have just gone to bed, and he may not have woken up the next morning.”

The NurseLine benefit is included in most UnitedHealthcare insurance plans and is available 24/7 for members and their families. The NurseLine service provides an opportunity to speak with a health professional about symptoms you or a loved one may be experiencing to determine appropriate treatment options. A recent survey found 93% of participants felt more confident after speaking with a Nurseline nurse.

“I learned many years ago, you answer the phone with a smile because that projects to people how much you care,” Carol said.

To be able to hear that her guidance helped Ody seek the care he needed truly meant a lot, she said.

“We usually don’t get a follow up and wonder what happened after our call ended,” Carol said. “To get updates and know Ody received the medical care he needed, is awesome.”

Almost a year later, Ody is doing well. He modified his diet and is eating healthier, more balanced meals. His total cholesterol level dropped by more than half.

Ody said he wanted to share his story to help raise awareness.

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. For men, heart disease is the leading cause of death.

Heart attack signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

Not all people who have heart attacks have the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms. That’s why experts say early intervention is critical.

Prior to his heart attack, Ody was active, didn’t smoke, regularly visited his primary care doctor and had no previous heart issues.

While some heart attacks happen suddenly, many people may have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance. Looking back, Ody realized he missed the warnings signs for about a year.

“I felt sluggish after doing yard work for half a day,” he said. “I would have to take breaks and get some sleep. I thought, I’m just getting old, but at the age of 50, I shouldn’t have felt like that. My advice to other people is to listen to your body and get checked out.”

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