Phill's Story

“I’m thankful to be here and tell this story, and encourage people to step up when they don’t feel right”

Phill's Story...


Phill and his wife moved to Custer from Michigan to enjoy life in the Black Hills. A cowboy at heart, Phill has been the flag bearer at the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup for the last eight years and says he’s thankful to have an opportunity to participate in his ninth next fall. Phill was experiencing chest pains during the most recent Buffalo Roundup and figured it was a respiratory issue.

“During the Buffalo Roundup, I didn’t feel very good. When it was over, I packed up my tools and drove to the Custer Clinic, where they told me I was having a heart attack,” said Phill. Joy Falkenburg, M.D., a family medicine physician, saw Phill immediately when he was brought into the Emergency Department.

“There were several times where Phill thought he fell asleep, but he was actually flatlining, or in other words, he died for a short period of time,” explained Dr. Falkenburg.

The Custer Regional Hospital team stabilized Phill and transferred him to Rapid City Regional Hospital for cardiac intervention. Phill has since made a full recovery and is grateful to Custer Regional Hospital and Rapid City Regional Hospital providers and caregivers.

“When I was able to come back and thank everyone for saving my life, that’s the most memorable moment. And I’ll never forget that,” said Phill.

“Isn’t this why we do what we do? This is the coolest thing to have a patient come back in and thank us,” said Dr. Falkenburg. “I love being a physician for Regional Health. I couldn’t dream of a better job. It’s what fills my heart up and is my passion in life. I love my patients and my community.”

“I’m thankful to be here and tell this story, and encourage people to step up when they don’t feel right,” added Phill. “I’ve got a lot of dancing left to do.”

Phill was fortunate to get help in time.  If you notice something does not feel right, or have not been in for an overall health check lately, contact us for an appointment with one of our primary care physicians, serving the entire Black Hills region.