Retired Judge Eugene F. Pratt was ready to get back to work Tuesday evening -- not yet 72 hours after having life-saving heart surgery in Thailand.
The former Benton County District Court judge suffered a heart attack on Sunday and had surgery to have a stent inserted in an artery that was 90 percent blocked, Pratt said in a Tuesday phone interview from Thailand.
Pratt, 63, retired after 39 years on the bench in 2009 and went to Pattaya, Thailand, in October to help the prostitutes there find a better life. His wife of more than 40 years, Linda, went with him.
He said he felt a burning sensation in his chest early Sunday morning and knew something serious was wrong.
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"It came in the middle of my chest," Pratt said. "It felt like it was on fire."
The Pratts have no insurance while overseas and never expected any major health problems. That all changed Sunday. The hospital wanted the money for the surgery up front -- $18,000. The Pratts had to get the money out of investments they had back home.
When the Pratts left the hospital Tuesday evening, they were planning to stay at a friend's condominium with a pool while the retired judge recovers.
"The Lord knew Linda liked to swim," he joked.
After some rest, the couple plan to get back to work. That didn't surprise a friend back home.
"It will take more than a heart attack to slow him down," said District Court Administrator Jacki Lahtinen. "He's a great person."
When Gene Pratt retired, the couple sold theirKennewick home and headed to Thailand for a year. Linda Pratt said they want to help the women find another way to make a living and share the word of God with them.
"They have nothing and no hope," she said. "They feel like this is their only choice."
But the couple plan to keep on with their mission to help the women who are forced to work in the sex trade.
"We call these things bumps in the road," Gene Pratt said.