Newsroom Heart healthy hero: Monett resident shares his story during heart month Posted by Janell Patton on Feb. 20, 2023 Jim Thornton served in the military throughout his whole career, stationed all over the globe.After retirement, he and his wife, who is also retired from the U.S. Air Force, moved to Durango, Colorado, where they lived for 28 years. They relocated to Monett in 2018 to be nearer to their relatives.Once in Missouri, the couple hired a builder to construct their house. As luck would have it, plans changed, and they decided to build the house themselves.“I woke up one morning with a dull ache running down the back of my right arm,” says 86-year-old Thornton. “My chest didn't feel heavy, but I just didn't feel right.”Thornton visited the ER at Cox Monett Hospital, where numerous tests were performed. About five hours later, according to Thornton, the doctor decided to transfer him to Cox South.He chuckles, "I remember being a little let down by the ambulance journey because it was slow and they didn't sound the sirens.”Thornton went immediately to the catheterization lab where doctors discovered several blocked arteries leading to his heart."The doctor asked me about my lifestyle,” he says. "I explained to him that I've been walking five miles every day for almost 20 years, I'm building a house, I love to ski, and I can fly an airplane.”Wanting to remain active and live life to its fullest, Thornton made the decision to undergo a triple bypass surgery performed by Dr. Zolfaghari, or "Dr. Z," as he is known to his patients.He recalled how the nurses had given him a red heart cushion to use as a cough support after the operation. "I think they're made by the CoxHealth Auxiliary, and it truly helped with the pain.”Being the determined individual he is, Thornton left the hospital one day early.He was eventually able to resume exercising to rebuild his strength and muscle with the help of the Cardiac Rehab Department at Cox Monett.Once fully recovered, Thornton made a commitment to keep working out three days a week at the hospital. His military training taught him to always arrive five minutes early so he’s never late.One day as the nurse was taking his pulse, she had a perplexed expression on her face. "My heart rate was down to 35 beats per minute when she inquired whether I was feeling dizzy,” he says.Before Thornton realized what was happening, Rhonda, a cardiac rehab nurse, is leading him by his elbow down the hall to obtain an EKG. His doctor eventually decided to stop a medication because it turned out that it was the cause of his low heart rate. Thornton gives the hospital staff credit for identifying the issue."I appreciate the team constantly monitoring my heart health,” he says.Thornton has been known to buy chocolate for the hospital staff. He continues, "Everyone is so kind and compassionate, from the registration staff to those in cardiac rehab, so it's the least I can do to show my appreciation."