Rusty Stalnaker was caught in a water crisis that delayed pacemaker surgery.
But the 89-year-old Charleston man is too busy counting blessings to worry about that.
"I am lucky, lucky, lucky," he said. "To have all things fall into place was phenomenal."
On the morning of Jan. 9, Stalnaker and his wife, Jody Connell, were about to leave their Edgewood Summit apartment when he began feeling weak and dizzy. They called for help, and he was taken to a hospital emergency room.
"His heart rate was 32," said his daughter, Sara Casingal, of Charleston. "When we got to the ER, they decided he needed to be admitted. Once under a cardiologist's care, they believed it was in his best interest to get a pacemaker.
"Surgery was scheduled for 7 a.m. the next day. That was great until we had the poisoned water."
Delayed surgeries were among the ripple effects of a chemical spill that tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginia American Water customers. On Jan. 9, as much as 7,500 gallons of a chemical known as crude MCHM leaked from a Freedom Industries storage tank. A portion of that seeped through an old cement block wall and then made its way into the Elk River.
As a result of the water crisis, elective surgeries were canceled.
When Stalnaker's condition was determined to be stable, health officials decided it would be best to put the operation on hold.
Meanwhile, his family worried.
Casingal, a registered cardiac nurse, inquired about having the surgery done in either Columbus, Ohio, or Charlotte, N.C., because there were relatives living in both those areas.
Doctors at Charleston Area Medical Center coordinated Stalnaker's medical care with physicians at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Stalnaker arrived there Friday night by ambulance and was monitored until his surgery Monday morning.
The operation lasted less than an hour, and by Wednesday, Stalnaker was back at home in Charleston.
Casingal said a big concern was not knowing when the surgery could be done had they stayed in Charleston. The family is grateful that doctors here coordinated care with physicians in North Carolina.