After Heart Attack, a Second Chance

Every day clinicians and patients at Rush face moments of great challenge and great inspiration. During this time of giving thanks, they’re sharing what they are thankful for and how their experiences at Rush have inspired them. 

Gary Schaer, MD

By Gary Schaer, MD

Heart disease is not a death sentence. Even if you’ve survived a heart attack, proper medical therapy and lifestyle modifications can allow you to have an excellent quality of life — and a long life. Surviving a heart attack can be a second chance.

Recently, I cared for a previously healthy, 42-year-old firefighter who came in after having a cardiac arrest in the field. His fellow firefighters brought him to Rush University Medical Center, and he arrested again upon his arrival. He was having a heart attack and we took him directly to the cardiac catheterization lab to fix a severely blocked artery.

When I came out of the cath lab to tell his wife that he was going to be fine, there were at least 20 firefighters and police officers waiting outside. I’d never seen anything like it. I walked through the parting huddle of police officers and firefighters all looking very grim, and they pointed me to his wife, who was stricken and expecting the worst. When I said he would be fine, she hugged me and the firefighters introduced me to his young son. It was wonderful to be able to deliver good news about a young guy with so much potential, so much life ahead of him and so many people caring and depending on him. I was pretty choked up by the whole thing.

A lot what we do is very mechanical, but this was one of those situations where the emotional, human impact of what we do hit home. He has recovered beautifully and is truly a model patient. He is an inspiration to his fellow firefighters and proves that with the right care, people can do remarkably well after a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

Gary Schaer, MD, is director of cardiology research and strategic development at Rush. His research interests focus on the exciting new field of regenerative cardiology, testing the benefits of stem cells to repair damaged heart muscle after a heart attack.

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2 thoughts on “After Heart Attack, a Second Chance

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