Last November, 54-year-old Darin Grice celebrated a major event. Not a birthday or anniversary, but the fact he was still alive. It was then Grice had a heart attack due to a 100-percent-blocked artery and underwent a lifesaving procedure at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital.
“About 6 a.m., I woke up with what I thought was heartburn,” Grice describes. “Even after taking antacid a couple of times, it still didn’t get better, so I knew I needed to go to the emergency room. I thought I could drive myself, but I got about two miles from my house in Marion, and the pain got worse. I didn’t think I would make it. I ended up stopping at the Marion Fire Department.”
The fire department called an ambulance, and the paramedics knew he was having a heart attack. They told him they were taking him to St. Luke’s Emergency Department (ED).
St. Luke's ER Like 'Clockwork'
“When we got to St. Luke’s, they were expecting us,” Grice recalls. “It was just amazing. Dr. Dowden (Ryan Dowden, ED physician) was completely in control and giving everyone directions. It was just like clockwork. Within about 10 minutes, we were up in the cath lab.”
“We’re fortunate to have such great EMS (emergency medical services) agencies who so well care for patients and are able to recognize acute heart attacks,” says Dr. Dowden. “They send us EKGs and provide medical history, which allows us to activate the cath lab before a patient arrives.”
Activating the cath lab included alerting Ankur Vyas, MD, St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic interventional cardiologist, to meet them in the lab.
“Mr. Grice presented with coronary thrombosis – a blockage in one of the arteries to his heart,” Dr. Vyas describes. “He did the right thing by seeking care right away. Time is of the essence because the sooner we can open a blocked artery, the more heart muscle we can save. I used balloon angioplasty to clear the blockage and placed a stent to keep the artery open and decrease its chances of narrowing again.”
“I was conscious through the whole process,” Grice remembers. “They kept me informed of what was happening the whole time. I wasn’t worried because everyone was calm and knew what they were doing; it gave me confidence. Once Dr. Vyas cleared the blockage, the feeling was amazing. My heart started beating really hard once the blood flow returned.”
Lifestyle Modifications Key to Preventing Heart Attacks
Darin Grice of Cedar Rapids commemorated his heart attack and stent procedure with a heart tattoo encircling the catheter entry point.
Grice says before the day of his heart attack, he doesn’t recall having any other symptoms. However, he says he has a family history of heart disease. His father died from a massive heart attack at age 60. While family history is an uncontrollable factor with heart disease, Dr. Vyas says there are things people can control.
“The main way of preventing heart attacks is by reducing risk factors,” Dr. Vyas explains. “Lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet; regular exercise; managing high blood pressure and diabetes; treating high cholesterol; and avoiding or quitting smoking are key to reducing the likelihood of having a heart attack.”
Since his procedure, Grice checks in regularly with Dr. Vyas and attends St. Luke’s Cardiac Rehabilitation. The rehab team helps patients reacclimate to exercise after a heart procedure or surgery and educates them about healthy eating habits. Grice says he enjoys his time there and is learning a lot.
“I can’t say enough good stuff about the people from cardiac rehab,” Grice notes. “That’s the best part of my day. The people are just incredible. Everyone at St. Luke’s is amazing. They literally saved my life.”
Grice reports he is feeling great since the day he left St. Luke’s. He shared a photo of himself outside the ED on social media. To further commemorate his “special day,” he got a heart tattoo on his wrist, which encircles the catheter entry point and includes the date of his procedure.
To learn more about preventing heart disease or see a cardiologist, contact St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic at (319) 364-7101 or go to unitypoint.org/heart.