Last summer, 66-year-old Austinite Bobby Atnip went out for his usual run around Lady Bird Lake, something he’s been doing for more than 40 years. Cognizant of not just his surroundings but also his own body, Atnip slowed to a walk with the onset of severe chest pain. Knowing this was far from the norm, he stopped two strangers to have them call 911.
“About a half mile in to my run I just didn’t feel right, but it wasn’t painful,” he recalled. “By mile two I knew something was off when the funny feeling in my chest continued to rise.”
Within 90 minutes, Atnip was receiving a balloon angioplasty to relieve a blocked artery that had caused a heart attack. Without the immediate measures he took as well as the immediate care he received by EMS and Seton medical professionals, the end-story might be a very different one.
“I remember being in the hospital and was able to keep calm despite all that was surrounding me,” said Atnip. “One of the docs there let me know I was having a heart attack but continued to reassure me that I was going to be okay and was in great hands.”
According to Atnip’s cardiologist Dr. Matthew Stahlman of the Seton Heart Institute, the goal is 90 minutes or less from first contact of a patient suffering a heart attack to eventual treatment at the hospital.
“In this situation our systems worked just as they should and because of it Mr. Atnip received the necessary care and today is back to living his life as it was before with no long-lasting side effects,” he added.
“Teamwork and efficient coordination is key in ensuring our patients survive heart attacks,” Dr. Mark Pirwitz, Seton Heart Institute president and chief executive officer, said. “This team includes the 911 dispatchers, EMS (emergency medical services) first responders, the hospital team, emergency room staff and the interventional cardiologists. They all work together to reduce wait times and get the patient to the catheterization lab as quickly as possible.”
The typical factors leading to heart attacks and other heart health issues are those that generally don’t concern runners – smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Not every heart attack can be preemptively treated, but there are measures one can take through screening, diet and exercise to give the body the best chance at surviving.
“One EKG at some point in your life is a great start,” said Dr. Stahlman. “There are more invasive procedures that can be done but for the vast majority an EKG will catch many of the symptoms. Sometimes a sudden onset of a blocked artery can occur which generally wouldn’t be detected in advance. A person who is fit has a better chance of not just surviving but eventually returning to exactly as they were before. And you should also have an annual check-in with your doctor, especially as you start to age.”
Today, Bobby Atnip is back to running but every visit to the trail is a reminder of how quickly life can change.
“I’m learning at 66 that I can’t do some of the things I used to do at 40 – or at least with the same intensity,” said Atnip when asked what he’s taken away from the experience. “If you’re body is telling you something isn’t right then you should get it checked out. Looking back, had I just tried to make it to my car instead of asking those two ladies to call 911 I might not be here today.”
For more information on Seton’s award-winning care, visit seton.net/heart-care.