Heart Health Patient Stories

Terry Tilson: Surviving a heart attack

June 4, 2012

Terry Tilson: Surviving a heart attack

Terry Tilson talks about the day he almost died like it was another item on his daily planner.

It was his 53rd birthday. He had just wrapped up a meeting at Plattsmouth City Hall.

“I got home and wasn’t feeling too hot that evening,” he says.

Boy was that an understatement. Terry had what he thought was a bad case of heartburn. When he added a second symptom to the mix, excessive sweating, there was no denying he was having what some commonly refer to as the big one.

Lucky for Terry, several months back as a city councilman, he voted on and approved revamping Plattsmouth’s rescue system. That included a 12-lead EKG. The 12-lead EKG, or echocardiogram, checks electrical activity in the heart– and Terry’s was in bad shape.

“I knew at that point, I was dying,” Terry recalled.

The medics called ahead to CHI Health Midlands Hospital and in the process saved precious time. Ron Sarno, M.D., the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Midlands says “when patients come in unannounced, we do an initial evaluation.” He goes on to say “if they’re having an acute M.I., or heart attack, we contact the cath lab.”

If the emergency department knows in advance a heart attack patient is coming in, the team is assembled before the patient arrives.

Midlands wasn’t the closest hospital but because it’s a Certified Chest Pain Center, medics knew it was the best choice for Terry.

“That’s what saved my life,” Terry says.

All metro area CHI Health Emergency Departments are nationally Certified Chest Pain Centers. That means they have the experts and systems in place to quickly diagnose and treat chest pain. Those procedures dramatically increase your chance of survival.

“The quicker we can get the vessel open, the less heart muscle damage. I would say it saved his life,” Dr. Sarno said.

Terry was in the cath lab minutes after he arrived at Midlands. Doctors cleared three arteries and put a stent in one.

Terry says, “the procedure saved my life.”

Terry spent a couple of days in the hospital and then weeks in cardiac rehab at Midlands. He’s lost weight and is taking better care of himself. One look at him and you would never guess how close he came to dying on his birthday.

“I knew this was my day to die.” Terry says. “I’m on borrowed time, so I treasure every day I have.”

Terry is also grateful that the medics made that life-and-death decision to get him to Midlands.

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