When you least suspect it, a heart attack can strike — a reminder a German Twp. resident and Mercy Health-Springfield want to spread during Heart Health Month.
This was the case for George Degenhart, 71, director of planning and zoning for German Twp. and a former Springfield City Schools staff member. He suffered a sudden heart attack of the type often called a “widow maker” — a condition that only has a 5 percent survival rate — in December.
Degenhart said he initially believed discomfort in his chest was indigestion but soon realized the problem was much worse.
“We were on our way to the squad, at that point,” he said. “We almost hit a deer on the way.”
Degenhart’s wife started to take him to the hospital, but stopped at the German Twp. fire station, where medics performed initial tests. Soon after, Degenhart was taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center and after more tests were conducted, he was told he was in the midst of a major heart attack.
“I was receiving treatment while I was in the squad coming to the hospital,” Degenhart said. “All these little steps made big differences to me.”
Doctors at the medical center told Degenhart he had a 100 percent blockage in his left artery, the main vessel that provides blood to the heart. If the heart can’t receive blood from it, it stops working.
Degenhart said when he was taken to the medical center’s cath lab for a balloon angioplasty and the placement of two stents, he was informed of exactly what they were doing at all times.
Dan Price, manager of cardiology at the hospital, said it can be frightening for patients in similar situations, but he was able to keep Degenhart calm by explaining the procedure.
A patient’s wrist is numbed, Price said, and wires are sent through the wrist and up the arm to the heart. A catheter is then run over the wire, which allows a contrast solution to be injected so doctors can illuminate any issues in the chest.
“We can have pictures as soon as 15 minutes,” he said. “The total procedure takes about an hour, unless they find something else.”
Price said Degenhart did everything right by seeking immediate help.
“He’s very lucky,” he said. “Stopping at the EMS was a great help to him.”
Though Degenhart’s condition was hereditary, Price said there are several things people can do to help prevent heart attacks and heart disease, including eating healthy, exercising and not smoking.
“If you smoke, you really should quit smoking,” he said. “That’s been proven to be a big detriment on your health.”
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