As a trauma program and EMS outreach coordinator at UnityPoint Health, Alan Faith knows his fair share about heart health. Educating others on topics, like trauma, stroke and heart attack, is part of his job, so when he personally experienced a heart attack, he didn’t believe it.
“It was absolutely surreal,” Faith says. “Except for a strong family history, I didn’t have heart attack risk factors – I don’t smoke, I am not diabetic and I have no other real health problems. At worst, I really like food that isn’t good for me. You could say I was an avid runner with a not-so-good diet.”
It was during one of his treadmill workouts when Faith started having heart attack symptoms.
“As my heart rate increased, I would get pain in my left chest. When I would stop running, it would go away,” Faith says.
Faith says the pain, which he describes as an almost burning sensation, spread from his left chest to his left arm and jaw. Having never had any other heart attack symptoms before, Faith didn’t want to accept it could be his heart.
“I had symptoms for approximately 10 days before I went to the hospital. Even then, I called one of the doctors I work with from the gym and asked his advice before going in. When I finally admitted I needed medical care, it was almost relaxing to come to the health care facility I worked at because I knew I would get excellent care,” Faith says.
Faith received immediate attention once he arrived at the hospital, and he was able to go home the next day. While his outcome was positive, Faith says it could have easily gone the opposite way.
“It’s scary to think about what could have happened if I continued to ignore my symptoms. I’ve been teaching on this subject for several years. I knew all the signs and symptoms, yet I still denied it when it happened to me,” Faith says.
Today, Faith is doing his part to better manage his cholesterol, along with taking an aspirin daily and attempting to eat healthier. He also stresses calling 911 if you believe you’re having a heart attack.
“I can’t express enough how important it is to use the system designed for heart attack treatment. From EMS personnel, to the emergency room and operating teams, everything is put in place for a reason,” Faith says.
When in doubt, Faith recommends not gambling with your heart and health.
“If you’re having heart attack symptoms, don’t wait to get care. Even if you’re healthy, there’s not a 100 percent chance it’s not happening to you. Don’t deny the symptoms.”
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