Severe heart attack survivors gather for reunion, celebration of life

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

khou.com

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 8:00 PM

AUSTIN -- Victims of the most severe form of heart attack gathered in North Austin on Thursday to share their stories of survival and spread the word that what happened to them can happen to anyone.

The sounds of Amazing Grace filled St. David's North Austin Medical Center. Many of those listening had amazing stories of survival.

"It still doesn't seem real in a lot of ways," said Greg Sansom, a STEMI heart attack victim.

Back in September, while playing a pick-up basketball game, the 48-year-old  Sansom suffered his Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), the most severe form of heart attack.

"I get the ball and I'm driving to the basket, when I run into one of the high school kids who was there playing," Sansom said.

It was a hard collision.

"I started to get a little dizzy, and my hands were getting really tingly," said Sansom.

Then came the intense pain in his shoulders.

"The pain in my shoulder blades didn't feel right," he said. "It didn't feel like anything I had ever felt before," he said.

As a precaution, friends called 911.

"As soon as the EMT pulls off the EKG reading, her eyes get really big, and she's like we need to go now," said Sansom.

Sansom didn't know it, but that collision knocked loose enough plaque to cause a 90% blockage in his right coronary artery.

"When you walk into the emergency room, you're expecting to see a 65-year-old diabetic, smoker," said Michael Grad, M.D., an interventional cardiologist with St. David's Heart & Vascular Center. "Then you see a young guy laying on a gurney and you think you're in the wrong room."

Grad said the collision caused Sansom's massive heart attack.

"I'd say he had a plaque of maybe 10 percent just two hours before, and this plaque ruptured," said Grad. "That happens. It's how STEMIs occur -- a plaque rupture."

Even though it happened just a few months ago, Sansom said he feels it's important to share his story.

"It's an interesting story and a story that people need to know, that symptoms aren't always the same. It can happen to anybody," Sansom said.
 
Sansom said the intense pain in the shoulder blades he experienced is not a symptom listed on the American Heart Association website, further illustrating his point that everyone should err on the side of caution and call for emergency help, even when the extent of an injury of illness is uncertain at the time.


 

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