The week before Thanksgiving 2012, Timothy was getting ready to meet up with a few friends from out of town when he suddenly experienced a massive heart attack. Thankfully, a friend was with him when he went into cardiac arrest. “I came into the bedroom sweating, and I told her to call 9-1-1,” says Darby. “I was incapacitated.”
At the time, Darby was just 38 years old with no family history of heart problems and no identifiable risk factors for a heart attack. “I was the first one in my family to have a heart attack,” says Darby. Darby flatlined at his house. “I was told a team of firefighters carried equipment up three flights of stairs to resuscitate me,” says Darby. The ambulance quickly followed and brought Darby to Touro Infirmary’s Emergency Department. Darby flatlined two more times, once in the ambulance and at the hospital.
Touro Interventional Cardiologist Thanh Nguyen, M.D., performed an emergent coronary angiogram shortly after Darby arrived. The angiogram discovered that Darby was experiencing a ventricular fibrillation arrest and cardiogenic shock. His condition did not look promising when he arrived, but Dr. Nguyen was committed to saving his life.
Darby had complete occlusion of his Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery. “I had what you will call a widow maker,” says Darby. The LAD or widow maker is an essential coronary artery, which can result in death if blocked. Darby had one stent placed in his LAD artery, which is used to hold the artery open to improve blood flow to the heart. He also received an intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP), which helps the heart to pump blood.
Darby was transferred to the ICU and underwent an induced hypothermia protocol. The protocol was used to improve his neurological outcome following a cardiac arrest. Patients who sustained a cardiac arrest are at risk for neurologic injury due to lack of blood flow to the brain. To reduce this risk, Darby was wrapped in a cooling blanket to reduce his core body temperature to 32 or 34 degrees Celsius. “I was unconscious in the ICU for seventeen days, and I heard the horror stories from my family and friends waiting for me to wake up,” says Darby.
Looking Back with A Grateful Heart
Fortunately, Darby regained consciousness with no neurological problems and was completely aware of his surroundings. He was transferred to recovery where he met Dr. Nguyen. “I was exhausted from the countless people visiting my room and wanted to rest,” says Darby. When Dr. Nguyen entered the room, Darby asked “Who are you?”, and Dr. Nguyen responded with “the person who performed your surgery.” Darby was ecstatic to meet the man who saved his life. “Dr. Nguyen thinks of me as his miracle, but I consider him to be my miracle,” says Darby.
Darby has been a patient of Dr. Nguyen for five years. “Dr. Nguyen is compassionate, and he is always asking about my mom. They developed a great rapport during those seventeen days when I was in the ICU. He was there to provide comfort to her while she waited. He is truly a genuine person,” says Darby. “I have also developed a great relationship with Dr. Nguyen and his team. You can tell they love and respect what they are doing.”
Since his heart attack, Darby has become more focused on his health and wellness. He consistently monitors his cholesterol and blood pressure. He has also incorporated regular cardiovascular activity into his life and eats a healthy diet. Darby adds, “I am lucky to have had the right people with me at the right place and right time. This experience has been rewarding, despite it being horrific.”
Keep Your Heart Beating Strong
A little knowledge regarding your important health numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose and weight/BMI) can go a long way in helping keep you healthy. Treatable risk factors for heart disease and other health problems are monitored by seeing a physician regularly to monitor these numbers and your total wellness.