January 30, 2020

Heart Attack Symptoms Can Vary: Chris Armstrong’s Story of Survival and Recovery

Pain, tightness in the chest and numbness down one arm – these are the symptoms that come to mind when we hear “heart attack.” So when Chris Armstrong felt overwhelming nausea and dizziness, leaving him too weak to even leave the shower, he didn’t think the cause was a blocked artery in his heart. However, it wasn’t eating the wrong thing that left him too weak to call out. It was a heart attack. The kind labeled the “widow maker.”

One week before, he had felt these same symptoms, but to a much lesser degree. Chris did not think much about it since the feelings passed.

“I was feeling quite poorly and then it passed and I got up,” says Chris. “The next week I had a decent cardio workout. The first time it happened, it felt like I had worked out and I’d overdone it. The second time it happened, it felt like being hit by three trucks. It felt like bad food poisoning. The first symptoms were not what you would expect. I did not realize I was having a heart attack.”

Lucky for Chris, his wife had changed up her morning routine and walked into the bathroom where she found him. She quickly called 911, and within minutes, the Verona EMS arrived. They quickly hooked him up for an EKG. They could see he was having a heart attack and needed to get to the closest hospital with cardiac care. He arrived at Mountainside Medical Center where a cardiac team was ready for him.

“When they got me into the ER there was an intervention team waiting for me, which was absolutely fantastic,” says Chris. “They gave me pain relief and took me into the cardiac cath lab to see what was causing the heart attack. That’s when the doctor saw that I had no blood flow through my left anterior descending artery.”

The left anterior descending artery (LAD), is the l artery that supplies blood flow to the main part of the heart. Chris’s LAD was 100% blocked. This location and a complete stoppage of blood supply is why this heart attack is called the widow-maker. Immediate placement of a stent was recommended.

“I had already agreed to the procedure because it was the smart thing to do,” says Chris. ”They went in and did a balloon angioplasty and the doctor was able to open it up to get a stent in. They were able to open it up 100%. From 0 to 100%.”

After the successful procedure, Chris spent some time in the ICU.

“I was there for four days,” says Chris. ”The ICU was fantastic. Really excellent nursing staff. Just wonderful care. A lot of attending physicians popping their heads around the door and making it simple for me to understand my condition and care plan.” Soon, Chris was ready to go home.

Next up was cardiac rehab and adjusting to his new life. Chris says even though he was at a good BMI before, this change has made him drop 20 pounds. While he has adjusted pretty easily to these changes, there is one thing he misses.

“I miss pizza,” says Chris.

Besides dreaming of pizza, Chris has been dedicated to building back his cardiovascular health through rehabilitation.

“I love rehab at Mountainside. I love the team there. Really great people,” says Chris. “It's a great program. They care a lot.”

With his commitment to rehab, Chris hopes to get a good bill of health at his next cardiac check-up. For now, he is taking the time to enjoy life, his family and concentrating on staying healthy.

“I’m grateful and fortunate,” says Chris. “A wonderful team attended to me at Mountainside. I’m grateful to my wife, to EMS and the Mountainside team. The care I got really was great. Wonderful people who care a lot—that's what matters.”

“Every day is good,” says Chris. “I plan on living another 40 years.”

Heart Health Month at Mountainside Medical Center
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States?  The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices and health management can often help to prevent heart disease.  Join the team at Mountainside Medical Center during American Heart Month to get the tools you need stay heart healthy.

Life’s Simple 7
February 8, 10 a.m.
Learn the seven risk factors you can improve through healthy lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy heart. Free health screenings available.

Cooking with Heart
February 10, 5:30 – 6:30pm
In this cooking demo, a registered dietitian and chef cook up and serve some heart-healthy recipes.  Samples will be provided.

Healthy Heart Seminar for Women
February 22, 10am – Noon
Some heart disease symptoms in women can differ from those in men. Women can reduce risk of heart attack by learning their unique symptoms. Health screenings available. A partnership with Delta Sigma, Montclair Chapter.

Events will be held at Mountainside Medical Center, 1 Bay Avenue Montclair, NJ.  To register and for more information, please visit www.mountainsidehosp.com/events or call 888-973-4674.

Mountainside Medical Center blends exceptional cardiac expertise and leading-edge technology with a commitment to highly personalized patient care.  Our interdisciplinary team of heart specialists have developed a powerful program for identifying, treating and managing cardiovascular disorder.  The hospital provides access to innovative and effective treatment options and is one of only a few community hospitals licensed by the State to perform emergency cardiac angioplasty.  Learn more about the hospital’s emergency services by visiting www.mountainsidehosp.com/ed.

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