• Tue. Sep 27th, 2022

Ocala, Florida food truck owner thanks medical team who saved him

ByMadeleine J. Pierce

Jun 14, 2022

Registered nurse Morgan Ragsdale said it was the best “thank you” she had ever received.

Ragsdale and about 65 other members of the AdventHealth Ocala Cardiovascular Services team were treated to lunch on June 9 by former heart surgery patient Jay Cowart and his Sweet Baby Cheeses — yes, that’s the name — food truck.

“The team saved my life and I attribute the short recovery time to being comfortable with the care. I’m definitely 100% now and doing the job I love and my daily activities. Saving my heart has helped my family and friends who depend on us too,” Cowart said.

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The 30-foot food truck parked beside the hospital, 1500 SW First Ave., Ocala, and provided a thank-you meal of macaroni and cheese brisket with “yum-yum” sauce and of chicken over macaroni and cheese.

Room for dessert? Brownies!

Members of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory (CCL), Cardiovascular Operating Room (CVOR), and Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at the hospital were served. Some team members dressed in green scrubs lined up in front of the food truck and others had food delivered to the hospital.

Tammy Cowart delivers food to a member of Dr. James Lonquist's surgical team June 9 outside AdventHealth Ocala.  Cowart and her husband, Jay, wanted to thank the surgical team who performed her bypass surgery in March.

Marcy Sieradski, head of CCL, CVOR and CVICU, said the teams, under Lynn Smith’s leadership, are working together to help every patient.

Jay Cowart listened to his body

Cowart, 59, had no history of heart trouble. But in February, he began to experience excessive fatigue.

Her attending physician has scheduled a stress test for March 7. During the session, Cowart had to be transported by ambulance to the emergency department of AdventHealth Ocala Hospital.

On March 8, Cowart was treated at the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where blockages in the heart’s arteries were discovered. He underwent surgery on March 10. Her surgeon was AdventHealth cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. James Lonquist.

“(Cowart’s) prognosis is excellent,” Lonquist said June 9 at the “thank you” luncheon.

He said Cowart suffered from a “life-threatening condition” which involved the blockage of three arteries supplying blood to the heart. It could have resulted in a heart attack.

The bypass can be done using vein material — for example, from the leg, Lonquist explained.

He said Cowart’s recovery was “ahead of schedule.”

Six weeks after surgery, Jay Cowart was back thriving

Cowart was released from hospital on March 15. For about four weeks, he limited his work to driving a car. After six weeks he was back in the swing of things.

Dee Ballard, who worked the truck with the Cowart and his wife, Tammy, described Jay Cowart as energetic.

Jay and Tammy Cowart share a laugh on June 9 while serving a

The Cowarts moved to the Citra area from Tampa, where Jay Cowart had worked with an engineering firm.

They decided to start a food truck about six years ago and turned to Facebook to conduct a survey to choose a name. Sweet Baby Cheeses won.

A house specialty — er, truck — is cheese quesadillas, with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses.

The Cowarts have known each other for 15 years and have been married for five. They work together. Tammy Cowart is also involved in a medical support company, UKG or Ultra Kronos Group.

Jay Cowart, right, serves macaroni and cheese outside AdventHealth Ocala Hospital on June 9.

They bring the food truck to places like the Downtown Ocala Market and the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park. They claim to operate “Ocala’s first grilled cheese truck”.

The Cowarts said they were lucky to find AdventHealth Ocala and the Cardiovascular Services Healing Teams.

“They made me feel safe and cared for. It allowed me to leave him in good hands when I had to take care of other things,” Tammy wrote in an after-lunch text.

Physician assistant and team member Tyler Mize said open heart surgery is not a “walk in the park”. He is happy that Jay Cowart is doing well.

“We served him,” Mize said, “and now he’s serving back.”