Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Likins rushed to UMC for surgery

‘Very ill’ from faulty pacemaker wire, UA chief saved by quick Tucson firefighters, hospital staff

UA President Peter Likins is wheeled from his office yesterday by paramedics and taken to University Medical Center, where he underwent open-heart surgery.

UA President Peter Likins is wheeled from his office yesterday by paramedics and taken to University Medical Center, where he underwent open-heart surgery.

A full recovery is expected for University of Arizona President Peter Likins, who underwent open-heart surgery yesterday after a pacemaker wire poked through his heart.

He remains in the Intensive Care Unit today and this morning was upgraded to serious condition, said George Humphrey, spokesman for the Arizona Health Sciences Center.

If not for Tucson Fire Department and University Medical Center staff’s swiftness, Likins might have died, said UMC cardiologist Dr. Karl B. Kern.

“He was very ill when he arrived,” said Kern, also UMC’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory director. “His life was in danger at the time.”

Likins had a checkup Tuesday, but one of his pacemaker’s two lead wires pushed through his atrium and heart muscle yesterday, Kern said.

Such a case is not rare, but typically doesn’t occur months after a pacemaker is implanted, physicians said. UMC surgeons implanted Likins’ pacemaker Dec. 31.

Kern said the puncture caused blood to spill into the sac surrounding Likins’ heart, making him feel light-headed and ill.

TFD paramedics arrived six minutes after getting a call from his office and had Likins at UMC about 20 minutes later, said Paul McDonough, TFD spokesman.

When Likins arrived at UMC, he was sent immediately to the emergency room, said Dr. Cristy Smith, the UMC surgeon who detected and corrected the problem.

The situation was made more critical because Likins, 69, was taking an anticoagulant – a blood thinner – to prevent a stroke, which is typical for pacemaker recipients, she said.

Smith, also UMC’s Cardiovascular Services’ medical director, spent less than two hours draining the sac, known as the pericardium, and replacing the wayward wire.

He is expected to return home later this week to begin his six- to eight-week recovery, Smith said.

Likins, UA’s president for nearly 10 years, is scheduled to retire June 30.

If needed, Smith will extend his recovery time to 12 weeks. “Because he is active,” she said, “it will assist him in his recovery.”



For more about heart health, visit these sites:

● American Heart Association: www.americanheart.org.

● The National Women’s Health Information Center: www.4woman.gov/heart/.

● Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com.

● U.S. National Library of Medicine: www.nlm.nih.gov.

● Nutrition, Health & Heart Disease: www.health-heart.org/.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service