Heart surgery allows ‘bonus time’ for Carmel father


Bill Fultz was enjoying his one guilty pleasure at Cigar Haven in Fishers in May 2022 when the Carmel resident felt he was having a heart attack.

“I was getting the pain in my shoulder, but what was unique about it was like I had a bad case of acid reflux and a brain freeze,” Fultz said. “They say a heart attack is like an elephant sitting on your chest. In this case, there was more of a burning sensation.”

Fultz, who stopped drinking alcohol years ago because of migraines, arrived at Community Heart and Vasclar Hospital in Indianapolis, where he learned he needed an acute aortic dissection to repair a tear in the aorta that many people don’t survive. His daughter, Stephanie Fulks, was so impressed with her father’s care at Community Heart and Vascular Hospital, she now works as an acute care cardiac nurse practitioner for a vascular surgery unit at Community.

Fultz, now 65, said he feels he has bonus time because everything went right for him to get care quickly.

“The (Cigar Haven) owner used to be an emergency tech and he immediately called an ambulance and I was only 15 minutes away from Community from there,” he said. “When I got there the cardiovascular team was already on site, finishing a bypass surgery. They didn’t have to gather the team together. They just had to take the CT X-ray, identify what was going wrong and then schedule an operating room. There is about a 40 percent mortality rate for the extent of damage. All it would have just taken one rupture of the artery and I would have bled out. The doctor indicated the increase is 17 percent every hour after that.”

Fultz said it took two or three hours maximum from the time he was stricken to his heart surgery. He also benefited from being on blood pressure medication.

Fultz said his family, especially the male members, have had a history of heart issues. His older brother died at 60 of hardened arteries and his father had a quadruple bypass and later died of heart problems. Fultz’s grandfather died of a heart attack, as did three of his great uncles.

“I had low cholesterol, but I made sure my doctor knew we still had to be focused on the heart,” he said. “In my case, the heart was fine, it was the plumbing around it that failed.”

At the time of her father’s heart surgery, Fulks was a critical care nurse and had just graduated  with her nurse practitioner degree. 

“She was so keen on the vascular surgery operation she works for  because they were part of Community,” Fultz said. “In her interview, they asked why did you pick us, and she said ‘you helped save my dad’s life.’”

Fulks, 29, said she chose the cardiac field because of her father.

“I had never thought of Community until the way they care for my dad, they showed the same passion and dedication to their patients as I did,” Fulks said,

The celebration for her graduation was held in August 2022. Since she got married amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with just 10 people in attendance, they celebrated her wedding at the same time, where they shared an extra special father-daughter dance. 

“You can get sentimental that we just can’t take anything for granted,” said Fulks, who was hired by Community in November 2022, and started there in March of this year. “He definitely has a different outlook on life that our family comes first because you don’t know what could happen.”