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UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care - Sunnybrook

5885 Sunnybrook Drive
Sioux City, IA 51106

Current Estimated Wait:
1 hr 15 min

Fast Action Saves Heart Attack Patient

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Fast Action Saves Heart Attack Patient

A Wake-up Call

One morning around 1:30 a.m., Steve Barnes was startled awake by burning pain in his chest, radiating down his arms. He knew right away what this meant, a heart attack, and was quickly taken to his local UnityPoint Health emergency room. 

Acting Fast

Arriving at the hospital, the ER team promptly confirmed Barnes' gut feeling. “They immediately thought I was having a heart attack,” he shared. Within minutes, Barnes was led through standard tests and taken to the heart catheterization (cath) lab.

Subhi Halawa, MD, was quickly called to perform a heart cath, a procedure where a narrow tube is inserted through an artery from the groin, thigh, arm or neck to identify and treat blocked arteries. During Barnes’ cath procedure, Dr. Halawa took a unique approach through the “snuff box.”

Named for an indentation on the hand historically known to hold tobacco or “snuff,” a person’s “snuff box” or radial fossa, provides easier access to the radial artery and offers more control over bleeding.

Dr. Halawa discovered a 95% blockage in one of Barnes’ arteries and placed a stent. Coronary stenting manually widens blocked arteries, restoring blood flow and providing instant relief.

“The only time I felt bad was when I woke up with chest pains,” recalled Barnes." By the time Dr. Halwa put in the stent, I was already feeling much better.” In under 24 hours, Barnes was able to return home.

Recovering Well

After his heart procedure, Barnes participated in cardiac rehabilitation. Patients who experience a cardiac event are scheduled for rehab to help with recovery. In addition, Barnes modified his diet. He switched to low-fat and low-sodium foods to manage his cholesterol and blood pressure while he recovered.

Hindsight is 20/20

Looking back on the months leading to his heart attack, Barnes recognized there were warning signs he ignored. While he didn't have significant cardiac issues, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, he did have other risk factors, including Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, as well as a family history of heart disease. Patients who've had cancer often have an increased heart age of approximately six to eight years, depending on their gender and lifestyle choices. As a result, they have a higher risk of heart problems.

More notably though, days before his heart attack, Barnes was having cardiac symptoms but dismissed them. He recalled, “Four days before my heart attack, I woke up with chest pains radiating down my arms. After a while though, the pain went away, and I figured I had slept wrong.”

It's important to recognize potential factors, such as significant diseases (like cancer), genetic history and lifestyle choices that increase your risk for a cardiac event. Acting early and quickly can prevent a heart attack from happening in the first place.

Capturing Life

Barnes is glad he got the care he needed and is thankful for the ER and heart teams at UnityPoint Health. “When you think of a heart attack, you assume you’ll be in the hospital for days,” said Barnes. “But a little over 24 hours later, I was home sleeping in my own bed. The way they were able to quickly take care of me was amazing.”

Today, Barnes takes time to be healthier and more intentional in every way, taking nothing for granted. “I've been videotaping my family and parents as they've gotten older,” he shared. “I’m trying to capture their memories from childhood and things like that. My dad passed away, but I have videos I made of him sharing memories, which we'll always have.”

Barnes is also taking time to be intentional with his own health. He remains active, lifting weights, riding his bike and mowing his lawn. “I was initially worried about putting a strain on my heart again and making it worse, but the therapists at cardiac rehab taught me what a good heart rate looks like, what to eat and encouraged me to get back into normal activity. It really was a comfort.”