Man survives heart attack on his birthday

3:36 PM, Feb 19, 2012   |    comments
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As a former paramedic, Sanwick recognized within minutes what was happening.

"I felt pain in my left arm, then it moved to my chest, then I started feeling clammy and I realized I was having a heart attack," he said.

His friend dialed 911 and EMT's rushed him to Swedish Hospital.

"I never thought I was a heart attack person. I didn't have the symptoms, I didn't have the history. Never in a million years would I have thought I would have had a heart attack," Sanwick said from his hospital bed on Friday.

Luckily for Sanwick, a new program at Swedish Hospital got him to the cardiac catheterization lab in just 12 minutes. It is called Cardio Alert to Cath Lab Direct. Introduced in December, the program increases communication from paramedics to the emergency room, bypasses red tape in intake procedures in the ER and increases the speed for patients to go from the ambulance to the operating table.

"We have a saying that time is muscle and every second counts," cardiologist and head of the Cath Lab Dr. Lee McDonald said.

Once a patient is in the Cath Lab, nurses and doctors do a series of tests to determine any problems with the heart and can operate quickly.

In Sanwick's case, McDonald says he had a piece of plaque that clogged one of his arteries and surgeons had to insert a stent to open the blockage and get oxygen pumping back into his heart.

"From the time he came in until the balloon angioplasty it was about an hour," McDonald said.

Because of the speed, McDonald says he was able to save about 30 percent of Sanwick's heart and there was no permanent damage to any arteries or major muscle tissue. It is an example McDonald would like to see repeated through the new program.

"We are hopeful this will lead to much better outcomes and save lives," he said.

Sanwick says the speed of the procedure not only helped the long-term outcome of his surgery, he says as soon as the stint was in, he noticed an immediate drop in pain.

"I went from incredible pain to zero pain like that," he said.

Sanwick hopes others pay attention to their body and signs that they may be having a heart attack.

"It made all the difference that I didn't just write it off as indigestion," he said.

Sanwick was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon. He was headed back to his home in the Lake Tahoe area and was only in town for business.

February is American Heart Month. More than 2 million people suffer from heart attacks and strokes every year. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.

To read more about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems head to the American Heart Association's website.  

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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