Published: Dec. 28, 2007
Updated: Sept. 16, 2010
Erika Ratcliff came to the United States from Nueremberg, Germany, in 1952. After a 20-year marriage, she spent her professional career working as a nuclear engineer in Michigan. Following her retirement in 1991, Ratcliff moved to Durham.
Ratcliff was an avid tennis player and downhill skier most of her life, and she received numerous competitive awards and medals. Unless there was snow on the ground, she played tennis for about two hours every day.
In May 1992, Ratcliff was playing in a tennis match in Raleigh, and she noticed that she was not performing at her normal best. While driving home, she began feeling very sick with chest pressure and noticed severe pain in her left arm. Upon arriving at home, she collapsed outside her vehicle.
Something was not right -- she yelled out for help, but no one heard her cries. With great effort, Ratcliff made her way into her home -- on a broken ankle she suffered from the fall -- and called 911. With help was on the way, she called her son, and he met her at the emergency room at Duke University Hospital.
At Duke, physicians performed several tests that concluded Ratcliff had suffered a heart attack as a result of coronary artery disease. She was admitted to the hospital and angioplasty was performed to widen the occluded area of the blood vessel that caused the heart attack. After one week in the hospital, Ratcliff was released and placed on medications.
Following her heart attack, she became a member of the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at the Duke Center for Living. She has been a committed volunteer with the Duke Heart Center Patient Support Program for more than 14 years. She also serves on the Duke University Medical Center Cultural Services committee.
Ratcliff attributes her good health and wonderful quality of life to John Guyton, MD, and Christopher O’Connor, MD, both of Duke University Hospital. She has not experienced any cardiac episodes in the past 14 years.