A Moment to Remember
Posted on Friday, July 12, 2013


Longtime NHCH volunteer Nancy Stephenson recently met President Bill Clinton at the Heart Rhythm Society’s 34th Annual Scientific Sessions held May 8 -11 in Denver, Colorado. But Nancy didn’t just get a photo with the President, she made him speechless. Before we get to that story, first a little about Nancy.

As you may know, Nancy’s connection to NHCH runs deep. She worked at Medtronic for 32 years with company co-founder, Earl Bakken, who invented the first external, battery-powered pacemaker. Earl, also a founder of NHCH, actually gave Nancy a tour of NHCH while it was still under construction. In 2005, Nancy retired from Medtronic and moved to Waimea, specifically to volunteer at NHCH. She wanted to give back in gratitude for her career by volunteering at NHCH. Today Nancy divides her volunteering between Health Information Management (HIM) and the Emergency Department, as well as serving as a Tour Director for visitors requesting to know more about the history and mission of our hospital.

While working at Medtronic as Medtronic’s Director of Physician Relations for the Cardiovascular Division, Nancy attended almost every meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society. This conference showcases the latest science, discovery and innovation in treating patients with heart rhythm disorders and remains the only professional meeting she continues to attend. And for good reason.

In 1985, Earl Bakken was the first person to receive the Heart Rhythm Society’s Distinguished Service Award for his exemplary leadership in founding the pacemaker industry. So you can understand why Nancy was humbled when she received this very same award in 2004 for building bridges between medical professionals and the medical device industry.

Now, how Nancy made President Clinton speechless. Clinton was the keynote speaker for this year’s conference, and Nancy was selected as one of 50 people to “meet and greet” with Clinton. “I wanted to do more than just shake his hand,” shared Nancy. “I learned my very good friend, Dr. Ray Ideker, used to attend band camp with Clinton and was a better saxophone player than Clinton. Clinton couldn’t be first chair sax until Ray Ideker left! (I also played sax in high school, so this was especially funny and very understandable to me!)”

Nancy continues, “So, I introduced myself to President Clinton and said, ‘I have just one question for you - did you ever become a better saxophone player than Ray Ideker?’ His jaw dropped, his eyes got big and wide - he was speechless! Finally he said, ‘How do YOU know Ray Ideker!?’ I was really having fun now, so I said, ‘He and his wife are at this conference; he’s a world-renowned researcher.’ Clinton was totally engaged, shaking his finger and saying, ‘Ray Ideker was the best jazz saxophone player I have ever known!’ Clinton told one of his handlers to go with me to find the Idekers in the crowd - he wanted to meet them! I of course thanked him profusely,” said Nancy.

Nancy searched the amphitheater where Clinton was going to speak shortly, which held more then 2,000 people. “I started up one of the aisles trying to spot Dr. Ideker, initially without success,” says Nancy. “Then Clinton’s handler told me, ‘He’s going to be really upset if you can’t find these people! He really wants to see them now!’ Well, I did find them, and they got to speak with Bill - in fact Ray’s wife said, ‘We were holding up the line! Bill didn’t want to stop talking to Ray!’”

“So it was an unforgettable experience, not only for me but for the Idekers, who are such good friends! To actually connect, even for such a short time, with someone who is a former President of the United States was a moment to remember!!!!”