Medical teams at the ready save two police officers who have heart attacks on the same day

On Sept. 10, 2012, dozens of Montgomery County police officers lined the halls of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville. In Takoma Park, dozens more officers visited Washington Adventist Hospital. In an amazing twist, heart attacks sent two of their uniformed brothers to the hospital on the same day. They followed different paths, but both say they reached the same conclusion: Learn about your heart health.

A Racing Heart

Montgomery County Police Officer Edward Paden Jr.

Montgomery County police
officer, Edward Paden Jr.

“The triathlon masked the heart attack symptoms,” says Officer Edward Paden Jr. “Based on the amount of exertion, I should have been sweating. As for the discomfort in my chest, I knew I was getting over a cold.”

The 44-year-old Silver Spring resident pushed on and completed the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run on Sept. 9.

Still in pain the next morning, Paden visited his doctor, who immediately sent him to a cardiologist. An echocardiogram showed two heart attacks and a possible third about to occur.

A medical helicopter flew Paden to Washington Adventist Hospital, where an emergency catheterization found a 95 percent blockage in his lower anterior descending artery. “If that artery had closed,” says interventional cardiologist Gregory Fisher, MD, “Mr. Paden would have had a major infarct,” which is inadequate blood flow to his heart.

Dr. Fisher placed a stent to open Paden’s coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.

“Given the fact he is young and otherwise healthy, placing a stent is less invasive and just as successful as bypass surgery,” Dr. Fisher says. “He’ll never notice any decreased heart function.”

Dr. Fisher says Paden responded well and recovered quickly, due in part to the fact that he is in good shape.

I never realized stress could be a killer

Paden didn’t have a family history of heart disease. He exercised, didn’t smoke, and controlled his blood pressure and cholesterol. Doctors told him a plaque rupture brought on by stress caused his heart attacks.

It was not until Paden awoke in Washington Adventist Hospital’s Cardiac and Vascular Intensive Care Unit that he learned a fellow officer had also suffered a heart attack.

Skipping a Beat

Montgomery County police officer James Lanham

Montgomery County police officer, James Lanham.

During a gym workout, Officer James Lanham felt some pain in his shoulder. Also suddenly tired, he decided to go home to rest. However, his watchful partner insisted Lanham go to the freestanding Shady Grove Adventist Emergency Center in Germantown.

Doctors there confirmed a heart attack. An ambulance rushed him to the catheterization lab at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville.

Lanham’s heart stopped for the first time in the ambulance. “The next thing I remember is waking up at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital six days later” the Gaithersburg resident recalls.

During that week, Dennis Friedman, MD, medical director of cardiac and vascular services at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, managed Lanham’s care. “He came in with a massive heart attack, cardiac arrest and a 10 percent chance of survival,” Dr. Friedman says. “We placed a stent in his right artery and inserted a balloon pump to stabilize his vital signs, all during repeated cardiac arrest episodes. Within 24 hours, he made marked improvement.”

The next thing I remember is waking up at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital six days later

After the procedure, Dr. Friedman met with Lanham’s wife, Laura, also a Montgomery County police officer. Thirty more officers stood in the room to support the couple and their two daughters.

“It was like a big family,” Dr. Friedman says. “Both officers had the complete support of their colleagues.”

Lanham and his wife say they felt the same type of support from the hospital. “We were surrounded by not only medical talent, but spiritual support. It was incredible,” Laura says.

“Even when it appeared my life had ended,” Lanham adds, “they continued to fight for me.”

Back to Health

Montgomery County Police Officers that survived heart attacks

Both officers are back on the beat today, thanks to expert care from the heart teams at Washington Adventist and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. Both are also enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation at the Center for Fitness and Health at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

The program benefits those recovering from a heart attack, heart failure or angina (chest pain) through monitored exercise, nutrition counseling, stress management and education, as well as emotional support.

According to Lanham, the team at the Center for Fitness and Health helped him improve his endurance through supervised exercise.

“I can’t say enough about the cardiac rehab team,” Lanham says. “They’re always checking on you and supporting you.”

Paden says the monitored exercise program is helping to get him back to racing form. As a first-aid trainer for Montgomery County Police, Paden is also sharing heart-health tips with new recruits.

“I tell them it’s not just about being physically fit; it’s about being mentally fit,” he says. “If you don’t have a hobby or outlet, find one.”