42-year old Peter Austin didn’t know it then. He didn’t know his three mile drive to work would change his life.
Peter: “I started feeling a burning in my chest from shoulder to shoulder.”
Peter kept on driving, figuring he was just anxious.
Peter: “At the time, I was a smoker so I lit up a cigarette figuring that having a cigarette would reduce my anxiety.”
It didn’t. Peter kept ignoring the symptoms, got to work, and felt worse.
Peter: “And I went to go see a co-worker and I asked him to please call an ambulance. I needed some help, and I just remember sitting on the floor and people gathering around and watching Peter have a heart attack.”
That day, Peter joined a club with more than a million members. Statistics show that each year more than a million men and women have a heart attack, and nearly half die because they didn’t get to the hospital in time. Experts say every minute the heart artery remains closed, the greater the heart muscle damage.
Peter: “I never added up the symptoms. Instead of saying I’m having a heart attack, I thought maybe it was indigestion or stress anxiety as I was heading to work.”
Dr. Jamnadas: “You know, many times patients think they just have heartburn.”
Dr. Pradipkumar Jamnadas at Florida Hospital is Peter’s cardiologist. He says a lot of people think you’re supposed to clutch your chest—like a “Hollywood heart attack.”
Dr. Jamnadas: “Some people only get pain in their jaws, so they get a pressure, a heavy feeling, a tight feeling in their neck. Many people think it’s a pain, but actually it’s not a pain. A heart attack is not pain—it’s pressure—a heavy feeling. It’s a tight feeling across the chest. This tight feeling is often misconstrued by patients thinking this can’t be a heart attack because a heart attack has to really hurt. It doesn’t have to hurt—it’s a tight feeling.”
Dr. Jamnadas and Peter have formed a partnership. The goal—to make sure Peter’s first heart attack is his last.
Dr. Jamnadas :“Gotta keep an eye on that cholesterol level so we’ll be doing a lipid test on you. Two, your blood pressure’s not an issue but we’ll keep an eye on that. Three, continue and exercise program. Four, watch your stress because we know stress is really important, and I do have classes on stress management.”
Peter knows the drill. These days, lunch looks a lot different.
Peter: “I used to eat chicken wings and I’m not sure if there is anything worse for you.”
With a low fat diet and medicine, Peter’s cholesterol is down.
Peter: “It’s a good work out. I’m still getting used to it.”
For the first time in ten years, Peter is exercising, and four days in the hospital helped Peter quit his pack a day habit.
Peter: “Stop smoking number one; that’s first and foremost. Along with diet and exercise, that’s three things you have to do. It’s key that you maintain a healthy diet and you do get out and walk and run or run or swim or some physical activity a few times a week.”
For a guy who never thought he would have a heart attack, he now knows how to prevent another one—thanks in part to Dr. Jamnadas.
Peter: “The cardiologist is providing the support and knowledge for things I need to do now and in the future to maintain my health and I count on the cardiologist very much. I think I’m pretty lucky to be honest with you. And kind of blessed that things turned out the way they did.”
Peter knows he got a second chance, one he doesn’t want to squander.