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A Patient Story: Fast Thinking and Quick Action Lead to Life-Saving CareLast updated on May 23, 2023
A Mother’s Heart
Fast thinking and quick action lead to life-saving care
The symptoms of a heart attack can sometimes be easy to explain away, but matters of the heart should never be taken lightly. Rodney Diehl, DO, FACC, one of our interventional cardiologists at Knoxville Heart Group, says if you sense something isn’t quite right about the way you feel, it’s time for medical attention.
“It can be chest pain, breaking out in a sweat, nausea, vomiting, as soon as someone is having symptoms that seem unusual for them.”
One patient who wholeheartedly agrees is Kristi Weaver. Dr. Diehl administered emergency treatment to the Jefferson City woman at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System when she experienced an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), commonly referred to as a “widow maker” heart attack.
“About two or two and a half weeks before it happened, I started having discomfort and tightness in my chest that kind of went up into my collarbone. It wouldn’t last long. If I went outside and sat on the front porch and took in some of the cool air, it seemed like it stopped.” – Kristi W.
Having been under stress, Kristi assumed the brief periods of chest tightness were anxiety attacks. Her son, Quinlan Dennison, instinctively knew better.
“He kept telling me maybe I needed to go to the doctor and have it checked, but of course, I told him I was fine and I didn’t really have time.”
A Heart-Stopping Moment
One night while the family was at home, Kristi’s 13-year-old twins found her unconscious on the couch. “I was unresponsive,” she says. “I was already gone.”
Ryker and Rylee called for their older brother, and Quinlan raced to the living room. He immediately dialed 911 and then, with the guidance of a dispatcher, performed CPR on his mother.
“He remembered the basics, and he got me to the floor and started CPR until the paramedics got here.”
CPR kept Kristi’s blood and oxygen moving when her heart couldn’t handle the job. As soon as paramedics arrived, emergency medical treatment got underway.
Kristi was quickly taken to Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, where advanced technology enables Knoxville Heart Group’s board-certified cardiologist to save lives every day, at any time and at a moment’s notice.
“She came in with an acute blood clot in her heart – a heart attack due to a blood clot that requires emergency care. The gold standard is for the catheterization lab to put a stent in.” – Dr. Diehl
Kristi was rushed to one of the hospital’s two full-time cardiac catheterization labs. The labs have specialized imaging equipment that allows doctors to see the arteries and heart chambers. A stent was implanted in the clotted artery, opening the artery to allow better blood flow, and her life was saved.
Dr. Diehl says Kristi’s case is a classic example of what the American Heart Association calls a “chain of survival.”
“That’s a bystander-witnessed arrest, bystander CPR, paramedics arrival and early defibrillation, outlining the steps in the chain, and then they bring the patient to us. Everything worked.”
A Heart on the Mend
Kristi woke up in the hospital, unaware of what had happened. Quinlan was there with her. It wasn’t until later that she heard the story of how the quick action of her children – the twins recognizing something was wrong and calling for their older brother, then Quinlan calling 911 and starting CPR – had helped save her life.
Her children continued to keep careful watch over her for a long time after she came home from the hospital. Tears still flow when Kristi talks about how the ones she’s devoted her life to caring for have shown so much care and concern for her in return.
“I have found out the hard way that life is too short to let stress and anxiety take control. Definitely listen to your body, even if you think it’s just something simple or something silly.” – Kristi W.
When you or someone you know is experiencing signs of cardiac arrest or heart attack, Dr. Diehl says getting care quickly is critical.
“These are very important, time-dependent emergencies that need to be addressed. We consider time as muscle, so the longer they wait, the more heart damage is done.” – Dr. Diehl
Dr. Diehl follows evidence-based protocols to provide immediate care in a window of time that can dramatically impact the patient’s chances of survival.
That means more birthdays and Christmases to enjoy, more sunrises and sunsets to experience, and for Kristi Weaver, more time with the loved ones she now holds even closer to her healing heart.
Know the Signs of a Heart Attack
Symptoms of heart trouble may vary, but they generally have one thing in common: they don’t “match up” with the way your body usually works. You’ll likely notice that “something isn’t quite right.” Never hesitate or feel a need to apologize for getting those seemingly mild symptoms checked out by a physician.
If a heart attack is suspected, time is critical. Get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Don’t wait and don’t take time to drive yourself. Call 911 immediately for prompt emergency care.
Common Symptoms of a Heart Attack
- Back, neck, and/or jaw pain
- Chest discomfort
- Cold sweat
- Discomfort in the upper body
- Pain in one or both arms
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain