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Physicians, Staff at Penn State Health St. Joseph Team Up to Save a Life

If, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, it’s a sure thing that it also takes a highly skilled and committed interdisciplinary medical team to save a person from what almost certainly would have been a life-ending experience.

Harry McGonigle, a beloved former teacher and tennis coach in the Kutztown Area School District, was watching the Summer Olympics at home with his wife, Dianne. While relaxing in an easy chair, McGonigle suffered a devastating heart attack and, when EMTs arrived, he had neither a pulse nor a heartbeat.

After administering chest compressions and shocking his heart with an automated external defibrillator (AED), resulting in a pulse, the emergency crew sped McGonigle to Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Emergency Department (ED), where a medical team was ready and waiting.

While physicians and staff worked to get McGonigle stabilized in the ED, St. Joseph’s Critical Care Unit was actively preparing for his arrival.

After three days in a medically-induced coma – his family and Critical Care staff keeping vigil – McGonigle was transferred to St. Joseph’s Heart Institute, where physicians implanted a pacemaker-defibrillator combination.

The seamless teamwork of the Kutztown Ambulance, Police and Fire Departments, and Penn State Health St. Joseph’s ED, Critical Care and Heart Institute staffs resulted in the very best-case scenario for McGonigle, his family and the community that was supporting and praying for him.

After his near death experience, McGonigle returned to his home grateful simply to be alive. He has since resumed most of his normal activities, and he and Dianne are looking forward to soon settling into their new home.

“There’s no doubt about it,” McGonigle said. “So many people, including the various specialists and the nurses at Penn State Health St. Joseph, saved my life.”

NOTE: Harry McGonigle is very well-known in tennis circles in Berks County and beyond. His health story was featured last October in the Reading Eagle newspaper sports section, written by Mike McGovern.

See the full story published by the Reading Eagle on October 16, 2016.


Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Heart Institute and Emergency Department have demonstrated expertise and commitment to quality patient care by meeting American Heart Association’s stringent criteria as a Heart Attack Receiving Center. If you’re having chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention immediately. Any other questions, contact The Heart Institute at 610-378-2340.