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Utah senator headed home from hospital after heart failure

Published March 18, 2014 4:02 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund was scheduled to leave the hospital Tuesday, six days after he collapsed during a legislative leadership meeting on the second-to-last day of the session and was rushed to the hospital.

In a statement Tuesday, Okerlund, R-Monroe, said he "experienced a heart failure caused by elevated levels of potassium in my blood."

Okerlund, 61, had felt ill and stepped out of the room where he collapsed. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who is a trained emergency responder, was quickly at his side, and was joined by Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, an emergency-room physician.

Paramedics wheeled Okerlund from the Capitol and rushed him to the hospital.

"Today," Okerlund wrote Tuesday, "I'm glad to report my levels are evenly balanced and my heart is working fine. I will be leaving the hospital this afternoon to recuperate at home. Doctors say after a bit of rest, I will be able to return to normal levels of activity."

Okerlund thanked the emergency responders who cared for him and those who offered "kind thoughts and prayers" for his recovery.

The senator, who was elected majority leader in 2012 while he was recuperating following a heart attack, said he plans to return to the Capitol for meetings scheduled for May.

"To see what a fine line exists between being here and being on the other side of the veil is amazing. It makes you think about priorities," he said. "Being able to help in the Legislature is important, but life, family, and being with your grandchildren are what really matter."

Okerlund said he hoped to remember that balance in his continued service.