Nevada state Sen. Keith Pickard, R-Henderson, is recovering this week after he collapsed at his home over the weekend and underwent an emergency surgery to insert a pacemaker, he told the Review-Journal in an interview Wednesday.
Pickard recalled feeling lightheaded as he attempted to help his wife and daughter make breakfast. He knew he would not make it to a chair, so he collapsed onto the floor.
His daughter, Lisa Light, who was in town from Utah for Thanksgiving, described in a Facebook post that her father stopped breathing for a short time and was unresponsive for about 15 seconds before regaining consciousness. Her mother took him to the hospital, where he eventually went into cardiac arrest.
“The room flooded with people,” Pickard said, recalling what his wife had told him. “A doctor jumped up on the bed and did chest compressions. They attached a defibrillator, but I don’t think they used it. It just worked like a second (heart) monitor.”
Pickard’s wife, Margaret, said she asked her husband if his life had flashed before his eyes as his heart stopped beating a second time.
“He said ‘no. I was just worried about you and if you would be lonely and what would happen to you.’ He was so thoughtful during that process,” she said.
Doctors identified an irregular heart rhythm and inserted a pacemaker. He was released from the hospital on Sunday. He had a light driving restriction placed on him for this week but is otherwise expected to fully recover, provided the pacemaker continues to work properly.
“I feel normal, if you can ever say you feel normal after knowing a doctor was on top of you giving you chest compressions,” Pickard said.
Shortly after his heart stopped, Margaret Pickard snapped a photo of Lisa huddled over Keith as he lay on a hospital bed with his eyes closed.
“I thought it might be the last time she ever saw her dad,” she said.
Pickard said this was actually the second time her husband’s heart had stopped this year.
During a legislative trip to Louisiana in January, Pickard briefly lost consciousness on the plane. Former Sen. Becky Harris and her husband took him to the emergency room, where his condition was incorrectly diagnosed as dehydration.
Pickard said his heart had regained its rhythm on its own, which is quite rare.
Despite his hospital stay, the senator briefly returned to his Henderson law office on Monday to wrap up some time-sensitive work.
“I get bored if I’m not doing something productive,” he said. “I am convinced I am here to continue to do something. I am here for a reason.”
Pickard said he has received well-wishes from community members and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including a call on Monday from Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Margaret Pickard returned to work on Wednesday, where her sympathetic coworkers helped her realize the gravity of what had occurred.
“It was hard for me because I realized what had happened,” she said. “We could have lost him. I was scared. But this is transitional for us. It made me more appreciative of our life — not that I wasn’t appreciative of it before.”
Pickard, who served one term in the state Assembly from 2016-2018, narrowly won election to the District 20 seat last year, defeating Democratic Julie Pazina by just 24 votes. His election denied the Democrats the seat they needed for a veto-proof majority in the Senate, which is currently divided 13-8.