Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00
A heart attack can be a painful, life-changing and frightening thing. Just ask North Hempstead Town Clerk Leslie Gross and hospice nurse Nancy Black.
Gross didn’t suffer a heart attack, but she felt its effects. Her brother, Bob Claster, was living in Israel last April and was a frequent jogger at the peak of his health at age 53. Claster was also a swimmer and loved to work out and exercise.
Gross said he and his friends were out jogging one morning and realized Bob, who usually led the pack, was lagging behind and fell to the ground. He suffered a heart attack. His friends brought him to a local hospital, which took all the necessary measures to save his life, but were unsuccessful.
Gross told the Mineola American that when she came back from Israel, she wanted to do something to “get the word out” about heart attack awareness and prevention. This led to a call to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola.
“I wanted heart health care awareness to increase,” she said. “This hospital does a phenomenal job and I thought this was the perfect place to showcase.”
The Town of North Hempstead will air Gross’ heart attack symptoms, prevention and aftercare coverage in February, which is Heart Awareness month on NHTV. Gross said she hopes that people will be inspired by the documentary to be more open about their heart problems.
Emergency Department Chairman Barry Rosenthal said the program at Winthrop is geared toward prevention. Rosenthal said Winthrop does some things some hospitals don’t do.
“We’re very fortunate to have a catheterization lab here,” he said. “We have the availability to have that open 24 hours. The mantra we carry in the emergency room and the cardiologists carry is that time is muscle. The more time that passes without the muscle getting adequate blood flow, the more long term damage there will be.”
Some of the most common signs of a heart attack occurring are chest pains, nausea, shortness of breath and sweating. However, Rosenthal said there are a few signs that aren’t well known.
“Back pain, diaphoresis and abdominal pain are a few,” he said. “Also, men may have different symptoms than women.”
Gross said if she knew then what she knows now, certain things might be different. “Education on this subject is power,” Gross stated. “It would go a long way for a person who’s going through chest pains, and can’t tell if it’s indigestion or a heart attack.”
You don’t have to tell Nancy Black that. Black, a hospice nurse who was treated by Winthrop, awoke the morning of July 17, 2010 and during breakfast, started having chest pains.
“I thought it was just indigestion,” she said.
Black happened to have a doctor’s appointment that morning and when she was finished getting dressed, she felt “rather unwell. I was sweating a little and had some discomfort in my chest, but it wasn’t acute and I decided to go to the doctor early.”
Black said when she arrived, nurses were surprised she was early, but didn’t think much of it. Upon sitting for some time, Black said she began to feel like she was losing breath and it dawned on her that she was having a heart attack.
“As soon as I said it, they burst into the waiting room and took me in for an EKG and confirmed I was having one.”
Black stated that even though she is in the health care industry, she’s very stubborn when it comes to going to the doctor. “I tend to think I’m stronger than I truly am,” she said. “I’m just happy Dr. Marzo was here to help me. Prior to starting cardiac rehab, Dr. Marzo told me to start walking again and I usually walk on the beach for three miles a day. Then when I started rehab he made me start off very slow on the treadmill. I had to walk 1.2 miles and it was frustrating but it was for my health so it was fine.”
Chief of Cardiology Dr. Kevin Marzo treated Black and placed two stents in her heart, which effectively saved her life. “She’s a strong woman,” he said.
“I was really lucky,” Black said. “I did very well. I’ve had no problems at all since then,” she concluded while knocking on wood.
Marzo showcased the catheterization or “cath” lab, which uses diagnostic imaging equipment to support the catheterization procedure. A catheter is inserted into a large artery, and various wires and devices can be inserted through the body via the catheter, which is inside the artery.
Marzo said that angiograms are done to find the blockage in the heart and prevent heart damage that can occur with a heart attack. “Angioplasty has been around since the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a way to fix a blockage non-invasively, meaning non-open heart surgery. It still was a procedure that you have inject dye, and it was a little tiny balloon that was designed to open up plaque,” he said.
When the stent came into play, it made the procedure much more simple, according to Marzo. “It’s very effective in keeping a blockage open.”