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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, sits at his desk on the House floor Wednesday during the special session at the Capitol. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Recognizing the signs of a heart attack probably saved a Jefferson City lawmaker's life in August.

State Rep. Dave Griffith, a Republican and veteran, reached over and placed his right hand on his left elbow as he said he was attending an Austin, Texas, program with his wife, when his left arm began to hurt.

"I had all the classic signs of a heart attack," Griffith said.

He experienced some numbness and tingling.

"My wife was in a breakout session across the hall," he said. "I walked in, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, 'Honey, I think I'm having a heart attack.'"

Leigh Griffith, his wife, had worked in a cardiac lab for 30 years.

The couple was attending an American Legislature Exchange Council event and found staff who could call 911 and find them someplace comfortable to wait.

In about five minutes, an ambulance arrived, and the couple soon were at an Austin hospital. Doctors quickly determined Dave Griffith's left anterior descending artery (the one that provides blood to the heart) was more than 95 percent blocked. They opened it up with two stents.

He was saved, but more tragedy awaited. After several days of hospitalization, Griffith was allowed to fly home.

And as they prepared for their flight, hospice workers caring for Leigh Griffith's 95-year-old mother called.

"Your mom's on her final journey," they told Leigh. She died before the couple could reach her — sometime while they were flying between Dallas and Columbia. Because neither was able to drive, their son picked them up at the Columbia airport and drove them to Kansas City, where Leigh's mother had lived.

During Wednesday's special session of the Missouri House of Representatives, Griffith thanked members of the chamber — from both sides of the aisle — who visited with either him or with Leigh during the past few weeks.

"I want to thank everybody on this floor for their prayers and their concern during my recent medical event down in Texas," Griffith said. "The gentleman from Lafayette — during my freshman tour — he said, 'You're going to make friends on this floor that are going to be friends of yours for the rest of your life.' No truer words could be spoken."

Several members of the body stayed with his wife as he underwent life-saving procedures. Others stayed in constant touch and helped him manage affairs. And others simply reached out to offer prayers and express their concern for his health.

"What I really appreciate the most is the care and concern we have inside this chamber for every member of this chamber," Griffith said while on the floor. "So, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart."

In the month since, he has stopped smoking and drinking alcohol. He has taken up daily exercise — walking at least 2 miles a day. And, he is eating better, Griffith said.

He's lost 25 pounds.

"I'm using exercise and clean living to make me better," he said.

Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, also shared a personal message with the members of the House.

He reminded them September is national Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

"As many of you know my youngest grandson was diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of June," Wood said. "Everything is going well. All the tests are coming back great."

He had his fourth birthday this week, and his parents and grandparents have bought him a "Mustang convertible" to drive up and down the street.

"He's doing well," Wood said. "But, that's because of the efforts of people like the American Cancer Society, the (MU Health Care) Women's and Children's Hospital in Columbia, the doctors, the people who are doing his treatments.

"It's a rough time, but he's making it very well because of that."

Wood asked listeners — when they return to their districts — to support the American Cancer Society in any way they can.

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