Louis Cicio didn’t look like someone at risk for a heart attack. The 58-year-old worked out regularly, enjoyed weekly bike rides, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels and didn’t take any medication. In fact, he had just received a clean bill of health from his primary care physician and was feeling good. That’s why it came as a complete surprise when Louis suddenly collapsed in his office. Thankfully, others were nearby to help.
A cardiac nurse who happened to be in the building immediately began CPR on Louis, who was unresponsive and not breathing. Paramedics arrived within minutes and put Louis on an automated CPR machine and shocked his heart four times with a defibrillator to get it pumping again. They alerted SCL Health Good Samaritan Medical Center that they were on the way to the hospital. And within just 30 minutes of his collapse, Louis was being treated in the cardiac catheterization lab.
“I have absolutely no memory of what happened to me that day. But I know it is because of the quick action of bystanders and the expert medical care I received that I’m here today,” Louis says.
Louis suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of a heart attack. A blockage had formed in his left anterior descending artery, completely blocking blood flow to part of his heart. This type of heart attack is extremely dangerous because it can immediately impair the electrical function of the heart, causing it to stop pumping.
Good Samaritan Medical Center’s cardiac catheter team, led by Rajesh Sharma, MD, quickly opened Louis’ artery and placed three stents to keep it open. Because of Louis’ quick treatment, he avoided significant heart damage.
“There is a tremendous difference in outcomes between those who receive early heart attack care and those who wait,” explains Shana Bolliger, RN, manager of Good Samaritan Medical Center’s cardiovascular services department. “If you are experiencing heart attack symptoms—from chest pain and shortness of breath to less common symptoms like jaw pain or indigestion—call 911 immediately. The longer you wait, the more heart muscle will die.”
Within a few weeks of being discharged from the hospital, Louis began outpatient cardiac rehabilitation at Good Samaritan.
“It’s best for patients to begin cardiac rehabilitation as soon as possible following a heart event,” explains Kelsey Star, MPH, clinical exercise physiologist with SCL Health. “Cardiac rehab is part of the comprehensive treatment plan for heart attack. It is proven to help reduce hospital readmission, prevent another attack and help the patient achieve a full recovery.”
Louis attended cardiac rehabilitation two days a week for 12 weeks. The program included patient education classes on how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle as well as an exercise program tailored to his needs and goals. Louis’ heart rate and rhythm were monitored during exercise to ensure he was tolerating it appropriately.
“The education we provide is so important. Patients are better able to make lifestyle changes if they understand why it’s necessary. And the monitored exercise program helps them slowly build up strength and endurance, giving them confidence to exercise on their own,” says Carol Wood Deans, RN, cardiac rehabilitation nurse.
A Positive Outlook
Cardiac rehabilitation also offers support and camaraderie for patients in the program.
“I actually found enjoyment in my recovery but I know that’s not the case for everyone,” says Louis, who describes himself as an optimist through his ordeal. “I tried to lift the spirits of fellow patients and can’t say enough about the cardiac rehabilitation team. They have a way of encouraging and motivating everyone.”
Today, a little over a year after his heart attack, Louis is back to work full time. He works out regularly at the gym, is riding his bike again and has made a few heart-healthy tweaks to his diet.
“I think being a healthy person going into this made a big difference. But I’m an example that everyone needs to be aware of their risk,” Louis says. “I’m so thankful for those who helped me.”
To learn more about Good Samaritan’s rehabilitation services, visit scl.health/goodhealth-rehab.