Seventy-one year old Ron Barnes is a black belt in karate. He plays tennis six hours a week, walks three-and-a-half miles per day and is breaking into the television and radio commercial voice-over business. A strong and determined 71-year-old, it’s hard to believe that just one year ago he was a pack-a-day smoker for 45 years who stared death in the eye after suffering a ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, the most serious and life-threatening form of heart attack.
Ron clearly remembers when he began feeling that something just “wasn’t right.” “I was bringing the garbage cans in when suddenly I felt an atmospheric shift,” he says. “It felt like a swarm of gnats was flying through my left arm and chest. I went straight to bed, thinking I had the flu. After not getting a wink of sleep or being able to eat a bite of food for two days, my daughter finally called 9-1-1 against my will. Thank goodness she did. I was taken to Long Beach Memorial where my life was saved.”
Ron was treated immediately upon arriving at Long Beach Memorial’s STEMI receiving center, the first such center in the city of Long Beach to be accredited by Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services. Los Angeles County residents with chest pain who call 9-1-1 are automatically directed to a STEMI center, where cardiac expertise and facilities are ready 24-hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. The Chest Pain Center and STEMI receiving center work in conjunction with the Memorial Heart and Vascular Institute to provide the best cardiac care available.
Because STEMIs should typically be treated within 30 minutes of the onset of symptoms, it was crucial for Ron to begin treatment right away. He was in cardiogenic shock, a potentially fatal condition where blood does not circulate to the body effectively. Interventional cardiologist Omid Vahdat, M.D. inserted an intra-aortic balloon pump, then performed a procedure to remove a clot from his coronary artery and placed a drug-elluding stent. Despite the seriousness of his condition, Dr. Vahdat, with the assistance of the cath lab team and cardiology fellow H. Nugyen, M.D., saved Ron’s life.
“My daughter said that my physician came out of the room elated, shouting “Hallelujah, he’s going to make it!,” Ron says. “I owe the physicians and staff of Memorial Heart and Vascular Institute a debt of gratitude.”
After suffering the heart attack, Ron says he has a new lease on life. “I never had a cigarette after my heart attack,” he says. “I started walking three-and-a-half miles per day with my neighbor. I joined Memorial Heart and Vascular Institute’s Cardiac Rehab program, which helped me push myself to get into shape and regain my love for fitness.”