98% artery blockage took him by surprise

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Eric, a security guard at Hennepin Healthcare, had been dealing with chest pains for about a week, but only when he bent over to do something like tie his shoes. “Heart attack symptoms were different than that,” he thought, “like major chest pains all the time or a shooting pain down your arm.” As an overall healthy man, he passed it off as something else. But one Sunday in January 2019, he decided to stop ignoring it and went to the emergency department. Blood tests and an EKG were normal, but there was more to come.

Eric was kept overnight in the Rapid Transit Unit (RTU), seeing several providers. In the morning, stress and echo tests found 98% blockage in his heart’s left anterior descending artery (LAD). The LAD delivers a major amount of blood to your heart, and in the past has been labeled the widowmaker. A lot of damage can be done to the heart muscle if blood flow isn’t restored quickly. There was also an 80% blockage in another artery. Hennepin Heart Center was a good place to be.

Eric’s cardiologist, Dr. Fouad Bachour, explained that although he thought two stents would be enough to fix the problem, he couldn’t be sure and if there was more damage than he could see, they would possibly have to open him up. “That’s when I knew how serious this was,” said Eric.

The angioplasty (a procedure used to open clogged heart arteries), went well and the two stents were all that were needed. The hardest part for Eric was “having to sit still for four hours after the catheter removal.” Eric followed up with a couple of months in cardiac rehab until he graduated. After one year post-procedure, he is free of blood thinners and his blood pressure is normal. Although he prefers to work nights in his over 20-year career, he switched to days for his health and to normalize his sleep patterns. Eric enjoys his job and likes helping people. “Some people come here at their most vulnerable or their worst, and it feels good to help.”

He doesn’t feel like a ‘survivor’ or a ‘victim’ of heart disease, but he makes sure not to let it define who he is. Right now, he enjoys being a grandpa to three under age three and is thankful he has his health and much to look forward to.

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