Even if you’re eating right and leading an active lifestyle, a heart attack can happen to you. It’s something Mike Chapman of Silver Spring and Rosalind Johnson of Laurel know all too well. These are their stories.
The Active Dad
Mike Chapman, a former computer programmer, ditched his desk job and took up construction because he wanted to do something more handson. Between work and the schedules of his two teenage sons, Chapman was constantly on the go. “I’ve always led a busy, active lifestyle,” he says.
One afternoon, while cleaning camping gear from a recent trip with his son’s Boy Scout troop, Chapman started feeling discomfort in his upper chest. Not long after that, he started feeling dizzy, nauseated and hot. He thought it could be a heart attack, but at 48 years old, with no family history, he found it hard to believe. “This totally caught me off guard,” he says. “I knew something weird was happening and I thought, I need to call my wife.”
Chapman’s wife, Vicky, was at work when she received his call and immediately recognized the severity of the situation. She told him to call the doctor and 9-1-1. “I honestly thought I would get to the hospital and we’d leave an hour later laughing about something he ate,” she says. “It wasn’t until I saw Mike that I realized it was bad.”
The Busy Career Woman
As a Prince George’s County School Board member, Rosalind Johnson spends her days visiting schools, working with parents and planning community projects. Although her schedule is packed, 65-year-old Johnson says she always takes time for her health. “I go to the doctor regularly and I’m careful about what I eat.”
Despite Johnson’s father dying of a heart attack at age 75, she never thought she’d have a serious heart issue. That changed after one particularly long day.
“I’d felt tired before, but this was different,” she says. Johnson woke up at 2 a.m. with what felt like extreme indigestion. A few seconds later, she started sweating profusely. “I knew I was having a heart attack,” she says. “I yelled for my son to bring me an aspirin and immediately dialed 9-1-1.”
Treatment in a Flash
Both Chapman and Johnson were taken by ambulance to Washington Adventist Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center, where teams of emergency and cardiac care doctors and nurses rapidly diagnosed and treated their very different heart attacks.
One of Chapman’s arteries was completely blocked with a blood clot. David Brill, M.D., interventional cardiologist and director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Washington Adventist Hospital, says Chapman was given cutting-edge treatment. “We injected medication intravenously and mechanically opened up the artery through a catheter,” he says. “We then extracted the blood clot, something not universally done in heart attack patients.”
Vicky Chapman was amazed by her husband’s care. “It was almost like he was the only one being treated,” she says. “There were so many doctors and nurses helping us. The nurses were comforting and kept me informed.”
Johnson’s heart attack was caused by a clogged artery that Mark Turco, M.D., interventional cardiologist and director for the Center of Cardiac and Vascular Research at Washington Adventist Hospital, opened with a stent. “The great news with Rosalind was that she recognized her symptoms and quickly sought help,” he explains.
“When we’re able to treat patients early, we’re able to save more heart muscle,” Dr. Turco continues. “That was the case with Rosalind—she received early treatment and is doing fabulous.”
Adds Johnson: “I was so impressed with the skills of everyone at Washington Adventist Hospital. They didn’t treat me like a patient; they treated me like a person.” She says this helped her get through such a frightening situation.
Getting Back to Health
Chapman and Johnson agree that their heart attacks were wake-up calls—not just to them but also to their friends and family.
“I think my heart attack scared some of my friends more than it scared me,” Chapman says. “They thought if this could happen to me, it could happen to them, too.”
After going through cardiac rehabilitation at Washington Adventist Hospital, Chapman is now eating smarter and exercising more. “I watch what I eat and what my family eats to the point it drives my wife a little crazy,” he says. One crowning achievement for Chapman was crossing the finish line in Salisbury State University’s 100-mile Sea Gull Century Bicycle Tour on Oct. 9, 2010—less than one year after his heart attack.
For Johnson, it’s business as usual. Her main focus this year is advocating for healthier school lunches, and she’s received a little help from a new friend: Dr. Turco. Together they’re reaching out to the community and educating parents and children about the importance of a healthy diet. “The kids who aren’t eating right today can end up as Dr. Turco’s patients in the future,” Johnson says.