Family in ‘right place, right time’ for new baby, dad’s heart attack

May 8, 2023

GLENDALE – Thanks to life-saving care at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, Emily Christison and Justin Elms are able to celebrate Mother’s Day as a family. Just hours after their daughter’s birth, Justin had a “widowmaker” heart attack.

While visiting mom and baby June Elms in the postpartum unit at Abrazo Arrowhead, Justin wasn’t feeling well. He went to the hospital’s Emergency Department and was quickly taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where doctors found a near total blockage in his heart.

“It was a whirlwind couple of days,” said Emily. “I had a baby on Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon, Justin had a heart attack. He spent a day in the ICU but we were all able to go home by early Friday evening.”

Emily’s nurse Mary Krupa remembers how the day unfolded. “Most new dads are usually so exhausted by the events surrounding a birth, but he seemed like he really wasn’t feeling well and decided to go the Emergency Department to get checked out.”

It’s a good thing he did.

“Justin had been feeling kind of light headed and then had a really bad episode. He walked down to the ER and within 25 minutes a nurse came in to tell me he had a heart attack and was getting stents put in,” related Emily. “They called it a widowmaker heart attack because he had a 99% blockage.

Krupa said it was a very emotional time. “She was shaken by what had happened. It was crazy but everything went as best as it could. Talk about being in the right place at the right time for something like that to happen.”

The next surprise was Justin coming up from the ICU to reassure Emily that he was OK and to see the baby. “I’m so grateful and happy that I could be a part of that experience” said Krupa.

“Mom handled it like a champ,” added Eleshia Barrett, who was charge nurse that day. “It’s definitely something that we don’t see every day here in Labor and Delivery.”

Life at home has been a little different than expected, said Emily. Besides having a new little sister for two-year-old Paisley, they’re working on healthier lifestyles and Justin’s recovery. Family and friends have been supportive, bringing meals and helping them get settled.

“Everyone knows the story. ‘Oh you’re the baby and heart attack person’,” she laughed. If we hadn’t already been in the hospital Justin wouldn’t be here today. All the nurses were wonderful and helpful. Now everybody is healthy and happy.”

Abrazo offers a free online heart health risk assessment at