Knowing, acting on heart attack symptoms could be a lifesaver

August 18, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Elmhurst Public Works Inspector Pat Autry was driving to a building inspection on the morning of June 1, 2017 when he broke out in a heavy, cold sweat. His fitness tracker also reported a widely varying heart rate.

The 65-year-old Villa Park resident says, “If I had been home I would have just laid down. I didn’t think it (the symptoms) necessarily meant I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t feeling any pain.”

Fortunately, his symptoms occurred when Autry was nearing his destination, which happened to be across the street from Elmhurst Hospital. To be on the safe side, he made a beeline for the Emergency Department (ED) where an electrocardiogram (EKG) showed he was having a heart attack.

“With heart attacks, minutes count,” says Adam Johnson, Service Line Director, Emergency Medicine & Urgent Care Services at Elmhurst Hospital. “This is why there’s a national standard of a 90-minute turnaround time from “door to balloon,” the time from when a heart attack patient checks in to the ED to when they receive an angiogram to pinpoint the problem. Many hospitals have set an even tighter standard, targeting a maximum turnaround of 60 or 75 minutes, but I’ve never seen a door-to-balloon as fast as what happened with Pat Autry.”

Autry arrived at the ED at 10:38 a.m. Triage staff quickly administered the EKG and emergency physician Thomas King, M.D., began treatment. At 10:58 a.m., Autry was in the intervention suite where cardiologist Andrew Rauh, M.D., of DuPage Medical Group, did an angiogram that showed a large clot almost totally blocking a major coronary artery. By 11:10 a.m., Dr. Rauh had performed an angioplasty to restore blood flow, including insertion of a stent to prop open the artery.

“It’s a good thing Mr. Autry came in right away,” says Dr. Rauh. “Without quick treatment, he could have suffered permanent heart damage or even death.”

Instead, Autry was released from the hospital just three days after his heart attack. On the seventh day after his release, he dropped in to Elmhurst Hospital to have a return-to-work release form signed. He also dropped off balloons and an edible arrangement for the staff.

“Saying thank you was the right thing to do, they saved my life,” he says.

Improve your chances of surviving a heart attack by following these tips from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:

Know the symptoms. Only 50 percent of heart attacks involve classic chest pains. Other possible symptoms include shortness of breath; pain or discomfort in your arms, neck, jaw or upper torso; breaking out in a cold sweat; sudden fatigue; nausea or light-headedness.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1. Emergency personnel can start treatment right away, and acting fast can save your life.

Keep a list readily available of your medications and any allergies to medications.

On your next visit to your primary care physician, talk about your heart attack risk and whether you can take aspirin if you develop symptoms of a heart attack.

Find out your risk for heart and vascular disease with a five-minute HeartAware assessment.

Learn more about cardiac care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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