“I’d already been through one miracle.”

“She gets a phone call at four o’clock in the morning. It’s the nurse calling her from the hospital, and she just knew it was them calling to let her know I was gone. And [the nurse said] ‘Mrs. Combs, you’re not going to believe this, but he’s awake and asking for you.’”

A photo of Andy lying unconscious in his hospital bed while intubated.
“I am here by the grace of God,” said Andy.

Two weeks earlier, Ronald Combs—Andy, to his friends and family—had suffered a massive heart attack. He didn’t have a pulse for 30 minutes, then spent the next two weeks in a coma. His doctors and family began to accept that he was unlikely to ever regain brain function. But 14 hours after making the heartbreaking decision to remove him from life support, Andy’s wife Julie got a call she never expected: against all odds, her husband was awake.

A photo of Julie smiling for the camera in one of the hallways of the hospital. Decals of UK basketball players can be seen in the background on the wall.
“It was a rollercoaster [of emotions],” said Julie.

“I think I deafened the poor nurse,” said Julie. “Hung up with her and came here as fast as I could.”

Julie was the one who found Andy, unresponsive and cold, in their bed the night of his heart attack. She was the one who started performing CPR on him while her mother called 911. And, as Andy is the first to admit, she’s the reason he’s still here today.

A close-up photo of Andy and Julie looking at each other and smiling as they embrace.
“I knew I had to do something,” said Julie. “And the whole time you’re wondering, ‘Am I doing this right?’”

“They both took turns doing CPR until the paramedics got here,” Andy said. “I was told later on, not only by the paramedics but also by Dr. Ogunbayo: those two doing CPR as they did is probably what saved my life.”

Andy and Julie sit and hold hands while looking intently into the camera.
“It’s very scary,” said Andy. “Adrenaline just takes over.”

It wasn’t Andy’s first heart attack. He’d suffered one in 2009, but recovered after receiving a cardiac stent. This time, in June of 2021, was different, both in terms of the damage to his heart and the level of care needed to bring him back to health. After months of physical therapy to regain his strength, Andy faced the next step: surgery at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute to restore the blood flow around his heart.

A close-up photo of Julie holding Andy’s hand as it rests on his leg.
“They treat you like they would a family member,” said Julie.

“I just felt very calm about the whole thing—both of us did,” said Andy. “I’d already been through one miracle, and we both knew that whatever happens, it’s in God’s hands. And I just felt real comfortable with Dr. London and her entire staff.”

In order to repair Andy’s heart, his surgeon, Dr. Tessa London-Bounds, knew he would require bypass surgery: transplanting veins from elsewhere in his body to redirect blood around the blockages in his blood vessels. It’s a procedure that’s different for everyone.

A close-up photo of Dr. Tessa London-Bounds standing by the bushes outside one of the medical buildings on the UK HealthCare campus.
“It is an amazing privilege to be able to open someone’s chest and touch their heart,” said Dr. London-Bounds.

“It’s personalized to the patient, and the patient’s myocardium [heart muscle] and what it needs,” said Dr. London-Bounds. “Sometimes you need to have extra bypasses to make sure that one area that supplies a large muscle in the heart gets enough blood supply to function. He had a lot of blockages in the blood vessels that feed the muscle of his heart.”

A close-up photo of the stitches and sutures in Andy’s chest following his surgery.
One of Andy’s blocked arteries is commonly known as “The Widowmaker” because it has a 20% survival rate.

In Andy’s case, he didn’t just need one or two extra bypasses. He needed five—a rare and complex quintuple bypass, as Dr. London-Bounds explained to Andy after his procedure.

A close-up photo of Andy holding a heart-shaped pillow that has a signed message on it.
Andy plans on putting his pillow—with a note from Dr. London-Bounds—in a shadowbox.

“There’s a pillow they have for cardiovascular surgery—you hold it on you if you have to cough or sneeze, so it doesn’t hurt as bad,” said Andy. “When Dr. London came to visit me, I asked her, can you tell me what you did, where the bypasses were and so forth. And she took a Sharpie and drew where the bypasses were, and wrote me a nice little note: ‘You’re doing great. Keep up the good work, one day at a time.’”

A photo of Andy and Julie holding hands as they admire the wall decal of UK basketball players.
After Andy’s recovery, he and Julie had the opportunity to tour Rupp Arena.

Andy kept up the good work, from his recovery on the cardiac floor at UK HealthCare through three months of rehab. Thanks to Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s affiliate relationship with Frankfort Regional Medical Center, Andy was able to do most of his follow-up care close to his and Julie’s home. The ties between the two institutions are remarkably close—his cardiologist, Dr. Gbolahan Ogunbayo, even studied under Dr. London-Bounds.

A candid photo of Andy and Julie walking arm in arm through the University of Kentucky campus.
“It was so much more convenient to be able to [get treated] locally than to travel,” said Julie.

“With UK HealthCare being a teaching hospital, you’re going to have the best of the best there teaching our new doctors coming in,” said Julie. “A lot of people I know that have had scary surgeries have gone through UK HealthCare, and have all come out the other side.”

“They’re just phenomenal,” finished Andy.

Andy, Julie, and three of his doctors stand in a line and hold hands while standing on the half-court line at a UK basketball game.
Andy was honored at a UK men’s basketball game alongside Dr. Vedant Gupta, Dr. Mark Newman, and Dr. Tessa London-Bounds.

“​​It’s not about just doing the operation and then them going home,” said Dr. London-Bounds. “It’s about working with the cardiologist and therapists before we even get to the operating room. Postoperatively, the patients are able to go to a floor that’s dedicated to cardiac surgery. After they leave the hospital, they come back to see us, and then we’re able to connect them with cardiac rehab and reconnect with their cardiologists. It’s a full journey.”

A candid photo of Andy sitting in a courtside chair and looking off camera with a smile on his face.
“I'm just grateful to be alive,” said Andy. “And to spend the rest of my life with my wife.”

See how we care for patients like Andy

at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Cate Cook, a young white girl with long blond hair, sweetly poses and smiles in front of a hedge. She is wearing a long-sleeve off-white sweater, a purple skirt with rabbits on it, and a pair of pink glasses.