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.

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A Giving Heart: One Family’s Rush Experience

By Colleen Berk

Like many parents, my husband, Mike, and I weren’t prepared for the day our son, Brayden, was born. We’d chosen that weekend to move and, generally speaking, I don’t think any first-time parents are prepared until they are holding their beautiful baby in their arms. It’s like a switch flips, and you want nothing more than to protect and love them. The amount of love that instantly grows is immeasurable; we were on cloud nine. So when the pediatrician stopped by for a routine visit after Brayden was born, we didn’t think much of it. All of the tests done while I was pregnant came back perfect — why would anything change now? And then she told us: Brayden had aortic valve stenosis (AVS). In an instant, it felt like all of the air had been sucked out of the room.

For the next month, we were living under water, shuttling our innocent little bundle to doctors for echocardiograms, researching AVS and trying to make sense of what was happening. And then, the day before Brayden turned one month old, the decision was made that doctors would need to intervene and do a balloon procedure on Brayden’s tiny, baby heart. We were to report for surgery the next day at 6 a.m. Continue reading