Larry’s Personal Heart Disease Story—He Was Lucky

He thought the pain he was feeling in his upper chest and neck could be acid reflux.

“I made an appointment with my doctor,” explained Pleasant Prairie resident Larry Herbst. “I had been having pain for a couple of weeks on and off. I wanted to see if there was any damage to my esophagus from what I thought was acid reflux. I got some acid reflux medicine to take while I was waiting for my appointment. It seemed to help.”

About a week and a half later, Larry went to his appointment. His physician assistant, Mark Peterson, reviewed his symptoms and gave Larry a thorough checkup.

“When he was done, Mark said I needed a heart stress test immediately,” Larry recalled.

During the test, we had Larry walk on a treadmill while we monitored his heart closely.

During the stress test, his severe pain came back. We gave him nitroglycerin, which reduced his pain.

The Stress Test Revealed a Serious Problem

Based on the stress test, we determined that Larry likely had a blockage in a coronary artery.

I gave Larry a prescription for nitroglycerin to help relieve pain he might have.

Opening the Blocked Artery

The stress test results showed Larry was likely within days or even hours of a heart attack. We recommended that he come in the next day for a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). A PCI is also known as a coronary angioplasty.

During this hospital procedure, we insert a narrow catheter tube into an artery. We enter via the arm or groin of the patient.

We use special imaging equipment to detect any blockages in the coronary arteries. (They provide blood to the heart.) Then we guide the catheter to the blockage(s).

In Larry’s case, his blockage was in his right coronary artery. We used a catheter inserted in his arm to place a stent and open his blocked artery.

A stent is a small wire mesh tube. We place at the blockage. Then we expand it to open the blockage and restore essential blood flow to the heart.

“After the procedure, I was required to stay in the hospital overnight to make sure everything was OK,” Larry said. “Then I went home the next day.

“The only restriction was to limit the weight I carried to allow my arm to heal. I got out of the hospital on Friday and went back to work the next week.”

Larry had his PCI at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha. “Everyone and everything went really well,” Larry said.  

Next up for Larry is cardiac rehabilitation. He’ll do activities to strengthen his heart. He’ll also learn about heart-healthy nutrition and how to build his heart health.

A Surprising Symptom

“There was one thing that surprised me most about this experience,” Larry emphasized. “I always thought a heart attack would cause pain in the middle of the chest, near the breastbone, or just above the diaphragm, but my pain was in the upper chest and neck. So, I learned something. If you’re not sure about the reason for chest or neck pain, go see your doctor.”

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Aurora.org points out heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest pain: Men most often feel crushing chest pain. It may last more than a few minutes, or it may come and go. It might feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, indigestion or pain.
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper body: Women may feel chest pain. Or they may feel pain in the arms, back, neck or jaw. Men may experience these signs, too.
  • Fatigue: Women, especially, may experience fatigue as a sign of heart attack.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Lightheadedness, sudden dizziness, nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)

If you have these symptoms,

  • Don’t wait to see if they go away. Go see a health care professional.
  • Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. You could pass out and cause a car accident.

If you have chest pain, call 9-1-1.

 

If you have questions about your heart health, visit your health care professional. You can schedule an appointment or find a provider online.

Meet the Author

Dr. Dajun Wang is a cardiologist at Aurora Health Center in Kenosha, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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