The Problem: Sudden Cardiac Arrest
55-year-old Navy veteran Paul Glover initially thought he was experiencing indigestion after he and his girlfriend went out for dinner one night in June 2018. The McKeesport resident arrived home and settled in to watch a professional basketball game on TV that night. “I was laying on the floor watching the game and I started to feel like I ate too fast.”
Around midnight, Paul arrived in the Emergency Department at UPMC McKeesport, complaining of the increasing chest pain. Describing the pain as “crushing” and feeling like “impending doom,” Paul was immediately taken back to the treatment area. Within minutes, Paul’s heart went into ventricular fibrillation — the most life-threatening cardiac rhythm disturbance, according to the American Heart Association. During ventricular fibrillation, the lower chambers of the heart quiver and can’t pump any blood, often leading to cardiac arrest. Almost immediately after Paul began experiencing ventricular fibrillation, he went into cardiac arrest. “I sat down on the table [in the exam room], took off my shirt, and I died,” Paul explains. “They brought me back to life three times.” Thankfully, the UPMC McKeesport Emergency Department team was able to act quickly and successfully resuscitate him.
The Solution: A Stent
Knowing that they needed to act quickly, the Emergency Department team rushed Paul to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. UPMC McKeesport offers a full-service cardiac catheterization lab, allowing physicians to perform life-saving procedures within the hospital, rather than spending precious time sending patients out to another UPMC hospital. Within the cardiac cath lab, doctors recognized that Paul was experiencing an active myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Paul had a complete blockage in his artery. John J. Pacella, MD, an interventional cardiologist at UPMC McKeesport, performed a heart catheterization and stent placement. After successfully unblocking Paul’s artery and placing the stent, Paul was placed in the Intensive Care Unit to monitor his condition.
Due to an irregular heartbeat, Paul spent some time in the ICU under the care of cardiologist Matthew Harinstein, MD, before being transferred to the cardiac floor. While he was recovering in the ICU, Paul had plenty of visitors. “The nurses from the ED all stopped by to see me.” Paul sang the praises of everyone he encountered, especially the nursing staff. “The nurses were wonderful on every floor I was on. I never wanted for anything. They took care of my every need and took me in like their own.”
After being discharged from the ICU, Paul was transferred to the cardiac step-down unit before being discharged home. When shortness of breath brought Paul back to UPMC McKeesport, Francis Ergina, MD, a cardiologist, conducted a stress test and echocardiogram. Paul had a follow up appointment with Dr. Harinstein in the weeks after his cardiac arrest, where Dr. Harinstein prescribed Paul to participate in cardiac rehabilitation, a supervised exercise program designed to strengthen the heart after cardiac surgery, heart attack or other cardiovascular illness.
The Path Through UPMC McKeesport
Paul’s continuum of care, from the Emergency Department through the cath lab to his follow up appointments and cardiac rehab, is a testament to the wide array of cardiovascular services offered to patients at UPMC McKeesport. Beginning with the Emergency Department, each step of Paul’s care was impacted by teams at UPMC McKeesport. Paul was exceptionally grateful for his nurses at UPMC McKeesport, calling them “my three angels.” “This was the first time I had ever experienced anything like this. The staff treated me like I was family,” Paul exclaims.
Paul is grateful for such wonderful care so close to home. “I am so thankful that UPMC McKeesport was the closest hospital to me. After the care I received there, if given the choice, I would go back right away. I would say ‘take me to McKeesport.’” Paul also partially credits McKeesport’s close proximity to his home with his positive outcome. “My girlfriend drove me to the hospital, because we didn’t think it was anything more than indigestion. We hit every green light on the way and, afterwards, doctors said if it had taken us even five minutes longer to get there, I wouldn’t have made it.”
The Result: Grateful for Care Close to Home
Looking back on his experience, Paul is thankful that he was so close to care when he needed it most. “I owe my life to UPMC McKeesport,” Paul emotionally exclaims. “They treated me wonderfully. They treated my girlfriend so well.” Paul only recently relocated to McKeesport, having moved away from his hometown of Pittsburgh for his military career. As an employee at an assisted-living facility, working with mentally challenged adults, he understands firsthand the importance of compassion and care. He is grateful to have been on the receiving end of this care during his time at UPMC McKeesport and looks forward to reuniting with the teams that had a hand in saving his life. “I just want to go down the line to every single person that played a role in my care and say, ‘thank you.’ Thank you for the compassion, for the love, and for saving my life.”
This experience has had a profound impact on the outlook Paul has on life these days. “I’m calmer now,” Paul says. “I’m back to doing everything that I was doing before my heart attack, just in smaller moderations. I have UPMC McKeesport to thank for that.”
“My experience at UPMC McKeesport was beyond positive,” Paul exclaims. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for UPMC McKeesport.”
Paul's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.