Evansville man gives up open heart surgery appointment to save another’s life

Men reunited after lifesaving surgery
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 7:06 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Stephen Nyberg and his wife, Rebecca, live in rural Illinois, about 80 miles away from Ascension St. Vincent in Evansville.

When Stephen experienced chest pains for a few months, Rebecca scheduled him an appointment for January 26 with their physician.

“He suggested that Steve have a stress test,” says Rebecca

So he did, and on February 1, the test immediately showed blockage.

Rebecca says the surgeon came immediately after he had a heart catheter put in and told them, “Steve has three choices, medication, stents, or open-heart surgery.”

The problem was, she says medication didn’t work, they couldn’t put in stents, and with four blockages, open-heart surgery was the only way forward.

When they went to send Stephen home after scheduling the surgery, those 80 miles complicated things.

“She couldn’t take me home,” says Steve, “I probably wouldn’t get back because the blockage was so bad, and it was so far, and the weather. It was winter time.”

So the Cardiologist assigned to Stephen’s surgery, Doctor Bradley Litke, began looking through his appointments to try and get him in for surgery sooner.

Enter Jim Page.

Page was scheduled to have surgery of his own with Dr. Litke the next morning.

“My phone rang one time, and it was Dr. Litke,” says Page, “he had an emergency going on. He had someone that needed surgery by morning and that he had no spots open, and I said, ‘well, you’re the doctor. I shouldn’t have a problem waiting another week should I?’”

So he did, giving up his spot in line for surgery so a complete stranger could have life-saving surgery.

All he asked in return? His name, so he could pray for him.

“You have to help people, cause without it, there’s not really life,” says Page.

Both men have now had their surgeries and have been home recovering.

Until Wednesday, the two men were still strangers. That all changed on the first floor of St. Vincent.

The two men shook hands and embraced as they shared names with one another, Stephen introducing Jim to his wife as the two men teared up.

Ascension St. Vincent Cardiologists Javier Jurado and Bradley Litke, who actually did their surgeries, say it’s a story unlike any other.

“Him giving him the precious time he needed. It’s just what stories are made of,” says Jurado.

“In the ICU, CV ICU, he actually asked, the first thing when he woke up was, ‘how did that other patient do?’” says Litke.

As for Jim and Stephen, they now share a bond like no other.