Quick Action Helps Young Man Survive a Massive Heart Attack

medallion-cardiaccareOn January 15, 2009, 36-year-old Shawn Howe came very close to losing his life. “Our son was in bed and my wife and I were watching TV. It was about 10 o’clock when I started having back pain. Within minutes, the pain was radiating everywhere. That’s when Melissa stopped being a wife and started being a nurse. She suspected I was having a heart attack.”

wurst“Shawn survived for two reasons-he made it to the ER before his heart muscle suffered irreparable damage, and he was taken to a hospital with 24-hour cardiac cath lab availability. The national standard for door-to-balloon time, or the amount of time that passes from when the patient enters the ER to when they receive an intervention such as angioplasty in the cardiac cath lab, is 90 minutes. We’re proud to say that at Floyd Memorial, our average is 75 minutes. Heart attacks don’t wait for normal business hours, and as the only hospital in Southern Indiana with a 24-hour cardiac cath lab, we’re always ready to save lives.”

Kevin Wurst, MD
Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician
Floyd Emergency Medical Associates

Shawn’s wife, Melissa, is a nurse studying to be a nurse practitioner. After calling someone to watch their son, she insisted Shawn go to the hospital. “I argued with her every step of the way,” he said. “At my age, there was no way that could happen.” Then, just as they turned onto State Street in New Albany, Shawn went into full cardiac arrest.
Shawn and Melissa were about two miles from Floyd Memorial. She called the ER, which was ready the moment they arrived.

“I’ve been told they immediately gave me CPR and pulled out the paddles,” said Shawn. “According to the doctors and nurses, I was out for at least five minutes. Dr. Steven Filardo was the cardiologist on call that night. He performed an angioplasty and put in stents. My heart was in trauma, so they put me in a medically induced coma to help it heal. They were afraid I might be brain dead.” You can imagine the relief three days later when he spoke his first words.

Michael Bittenbender, MD, is Shawn’s primary care physician. “There were three real heroes in Shawn’s case,” said Dr. Bittenbender. “First, his wife for recognizing the problem and getting him to the ER. Second, Dr. Kevin Wurst, the ER physician. And third, Dr. Filardo, who came in the middle of the night and kept him alive. They’re the reason we have such a dramatic story to tell today.”

filardo“As an interventional cardiologist, I only get the opportunity to do my job if the ER team does theirs first. Dr. Wurst and his team did a phenomenal job of resuscitating and stabilizing Shawn in a very short amount of time. Research shows that the sooner the patient is able to move from the ER to the cath lab for intervention, the better they recover in the long-term. Shawn’s door-to-balloon time was incredibly short-under 60 minutes-which is what ultimately saved his life. I like to use a football analogy to describe it-Dr. Wurst and his excellent team in the ER put the play in motion and executed the most important steps. All I did was catch the ball in the end zone.”

Steven Filardo, FACC, MD, MPH
Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist
Preferred Cardiology of Kentuckiana, LLC

Shawn Still Required Surgery

The heart attack was very difficult for Shawn to accept. “I remember watching my year-and-a-half-old son sleep. I cried, knowing that if I died now, he wouldn’t even remember me.” On March 18, when Shawn’s heart was strong enough, Dr. Sebastian Pagni, a cardiothoracic surgeon, performed a quadruple bypass at the Floyd Memorial Heart and Vascular Center. “The staff was incredible about preparing my wife and I,” said Shawn. “They got me on my feet the very next day. The nursing care was awesome. I was able to go home in just five days. I’m so grateful my wife took me to Floyd Memorial.”

The Next Step was Cardiac Rehab

Six weeks after surgery, Shawn began cardiac rehab. He went at it with the same drive with which he approached his life. “Shawn had a positive attitude and was determined to recover,” said Floyd Memorial Cardiac Rehab Nurse, Carol Griffitt, RN. “He was very strict on himself, almost too strict at times. We treat each patient individually. In his case, we felt that helping him gain a sense of perspective was important. And talking with the other patients really helped him relax. He was a real pleasure to work with. Although I wish he hadn’t had to come in the first place!”

According to Shawn, “The crew in cardiac rehab is awesome. They made me feel comfortable. They helped me with stress management and nutrition. And it was good knowing my heart was being monitored. I felt safe.”

The Road to Recovery

According to Shawn’s Cardiologist, Srini Manchi, MD, he is doing very well. “He is fortunate that he has fully recovered his heart, lung and neurological functions after such a severe cardiac event.”

“In rehab, I learned about a support group called Mended Hearts,” said Shawn. “I am now a Mended Hearts volunteer in
the cardiac unit at Floyd Memorial. I want to give something back. Hopefully I can help raise awareness among younger people.”

bittenbender“We are seeing more people in their 30s and even their 20s having chest pain that indicates serious heart trouble. I ask my patients to get a baseline lipid panel at 30 years of age to check for high cholesterol. It’s a silent risk factor that can creep along unknown otherwise.”

Michael Bittenbender, MD
Board Certified Family Medicine Physician
Floyd Memorial Medical Group-New Albany

Young People Need to Know Their Risk

manchi“Even when you’re young, you should know your risk factors for heart disease, such as a family history of heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You should have your cholesterol level checked. If it’s high, get it under control with exercise, a healthy diet and medication if necessary. And never, ever smoke.”

Srini Manchi, MD
Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist
Cardiology Associates of Southern Indiana, PC

howe“I have a big message for younger people. I know you think you’re invincible. But young people can have heart attacks, too. So know your family history. Know the signs. And most of all, don’t be afraid to go to the hospital. It could save your life.”

Shawn Howe
Heart Attack Survivor