Avera Medical Minute: Surviving a heart attack

Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 9:45 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - We typically associate a heart attack with chest pain or discomfort. But sometimes, the symptoms of a heart attack can often be more subtle.

One woman explains why she says you shouldn’t ignore symptoms and should head to the hospital right away.

Cardiac rehab has been a part of 35-year-old Megan Kuehl’s routine ever since she experienced a heart attack back in April.

“I go to cardiac rehab three times a week. Each session — Monday, Wednesday, Friday — is an hour long. I do 45 minutes of cardio, and I’ve incorporated weight lifting in as well,” said Kuehl.

“Just assumed it was heartburn, took some Maalox — that didn’t do anything. That’s when the chest pressure turned into heavy arms as well, so those aren’t traditional symptoms,” said Kuehl.

She eventually was taken to Avera St. Luke’s in Aberdeen.

“Avera had an entire cardiology team that admitted me, did an echocardiogram, blood draws. They were extremely thorough, and within three hours of being admitted into Avera, I was in the cath lab with Dr. Gundewar and getting an angiogram,” said Kuehl.

“In this case, we went through the wrist where we put an IV in the artery in the wrist, and we take a little catheter to the heart, inject dye into the arteries and look under x-ray. That allows us to see if there is a blockage, where the blockage is, or how tight it is and what we can do about it,” said cardiologist Dr. Susheel Gundewar with Avera Medical Group Cardiovascular Specialists in Aberdeen.

“I was diagnosed with SCAD — spontaneous coronary artery dissection — which led to the heart attack,” said Kuehl.

Avera St. Luke’s is a level three American College of Surgeons verified trauma center. It is the only trauma center verified at that level in the Aberdeen area.

“We have to meet certain standards. We have to have a trauma surgeon on call 24/7. We have to have ortho on call 24/7. Then we have to have an emergency room physician who is board certified in the ER 24/7,” said trauma program coordinator Milissa Podoll.

That’s good news for all patients.

“With the 24/7 heart care, when a person is having a heart attack, or what we call a STEMI or NSTEMI, they can come to our ER, and we have a cardiologist on staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have two cath labs that are also staffed 24/7, and so you can get that care right here in Aberdeen,” said Podoll.

“The sooner we can get a patient coming in with a heart attack to the cath lab and open up the blood vessel, the better their recovery, the better they will do going forward,” said Dr. Gundewar.

As for Megan, she’s continuing to recover. She has one piece of advice for everyone to take to heart.

“Heart issues do not discriminate. You can be younger, you can be older, you can be completely healthy and work out every day of the week — it doesn’t matter. So don’t ignore those symptoms when they come up,” said Kuehl.

Avera St. Luke’s recently received re-verification as a level three American College of Surgeons verified trauma center.

To learn more about heart attack symptoms, visit avera.org/medicalminute.