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Grateful patient: The day I scored a second chance at life


The Schreffler family tailgating on a winter day. From left to right: Allison Shreffler, Matthew Shreffler, Doug Shreffler, Valerie Shreffler

Ask any Penn State football fan and they’ll tell you, there’s nothing quite like the first home game of the season. Douglas Shreffler and his wife, Allison, know that better than anyone. The Penn State alumni, who first met on the University Park campus, have been tailgating and attending games for years. Fifty-five-year-old Doug had no reason to believe 2018 could have been his final “first” game. But the last thing he remembers saying to Allison on that September 1 morning was, “I’m going to die.” And then he did.

On the morning of the game, Doug felt fine and decided to make the trip to State College with his family and friends. Soon after arriving at tailgate lot 12, however, he became short of breath and began to experience chest pain. “I just didn’t feel right,” he said, and even used an inhaler that he had on him to try to breathe better. Half-an-hour later, others tailgating near lot 12 were standing on top of RVs in an attempt to wave down nearby Penn State police. Doug was unresponsive.

When they arrived, the police administered CPR, hoping to bring Doug – now in full cardiac arrest –back to life. They radioed for Beaver Stadium staff, which quickly arrived on a utility vehicle, equipped with an automated external defibrillator (AED). It took two shocks from the AED to restart Doug’s heart before it stopped a second time. Soon, Centre LifeLink and Penn State EMS crews arrived and dispensed advanced cardiac support medicines and additional shocks with an AED. Then Doug was intubated with a breathing tube. Just then, he regained a pulse and an ambulance arrived at the scene.

During the brief transport from the stadium to Mount Nittany Medical Center, Doug was able to follow verbal commands, and once in the emergency department, staff was able to stabilize him. From there, Doug was sent to the Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization lab, where they found two blocked arteries and swiftly inserted two stents, clearing the way for proper blood flow. Doug was then admitted to the Medical Center through the intensive care unit, where he remained for five days before returning home to Harrisburg and a program of cardiac rehabilitation.

“My family, friends and I will now celebrate September 1 as my second birthday,” shares Doug. “It’s the day I literally got a second chance at life, and I will never forget that day or the amazing people who did something truly selfless for a complete stranger.”

Mount Nittany Health Foundation’s Grateful Patient program is designed to offer patients like Doug, as well as friends and families, a way to say thank you while also making a difference for other patients. The program allows individuals and/or their families to recognize the exceptional care they have received by honoring a specific doctor or nurse, a department or a clinical program that provided care.

To date, generous community members have gifted more than $4 million for the Medical Center’s new cardiovascular pavilion, scheduled to open in fall 2019.

To learn more about the Grateful Patient program and other ways to donate, visit or call the Foundation office at 814.234.6777.

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