Fast Action Saves a Life

She wasn't a classic heart-attack candidate, but fortunately, when symptoms struck, she didn't delay.




THIS PAST DECEMBER, SANDY SULLIVAN, a 55-year-old mother of four children, was looking forward to seeing her twin boys, United States Army Rangers, who were coming home for Christmas. On December 16, 2018, at 4:00 a.m., Sandy woke up with a pain in her throat.

“It definitely did not feel like a normal sore throat,” Sullivan recalls. “It was just getting worse and then I started to break out in sweats.” She woke up her husband and they went to the Emergency Department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. The doctors quickly concluded that she was having a heart attack and rushed her into the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where Bruce J. Haik, M.D., system director of Cardiac Catheterization Labs for RWJBarnabas Health, placed a stent in her heart.

“What was unique about Sandy’s case was the fact that although she did have a history of tobacco use, she had no other heart-attack risk factors and was relatively young for a woman to suffer a heart attack,” says Dr. Haik.

“The whole thing happened pretty quickly,” says Sullivan. “I remember being on the table telling the doctor, ‘I hope this goes well because my twin boys are being deployed in a couple of weeks.’ I wasn’t sure if I was going to be alive or not.”

Sullivan recovered in the Coronary Care Unit and was up and walking the next day. She was able to start getting back to her normal daily routine a week later, just in time to see her sons. “The entire Emergency Department staff and Cardiac Department were amazing and made me feel very comfortable,” says Sandy. “Thank you for saving my life.”

“Although Sandy’s symptoms were textbook—chest pain and associated diaphoresis [excessive sweating without a known cause] waking her up from sleep—she did initially present with a sore throat,” explains Dr. Haik. “Nausea, dizziness, anxiety as well as chest pain, which may include back or neck pain or throbbing in arms—that’s not an uncommon presentation for women.” “If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right,” Sullivan now warns people. She continues her cardiac care with cardiologist Devang Gandhi, M.D., and is enrolled in Cardiac Rehabilitation at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Saint Barnabas Medical Center provides a full array of advanced cardiovascular services including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), noninvasive cardiac imaging, advanced echocardiography techniques, coronary CTA (computed tomography angiography), diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization, peripheral vascular services including carotid stenting, and full range of open-heart surgery including valve surgery and coronary revascularization. In addition, a full range of electrophysiology services including pacemaker and cardiac defibrillator implantation, Watchman, electrophysiologic studies and atrial fi brillation ablation are offered. Saint Barnabas Medical Center has received The Joint Commission disease-specific certifications for Acute Coronary Syndrome, Heart Failure and Cardiac Rehabilitation.

HEART ATTACK: KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS

  • CHEST DISCOMFORT: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • DISCOMFORT IN OTHER AREAS OF THE UPPER BODY: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • SHORTNESS OF BREATH with or without chest discomfort.
  • OTHER SIGNS may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN CAN BE DIFFERENT: As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain (angina) or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

 —American Heart Association

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Join Grow It Green Morristown on Monday, October 21 for exclusive access to one of Morristown's hottest restaurants: Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen! When the restaurant is normally closed, guests will...

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Joanne Owsiak, MD, Interventional Pain Management There are many forms of neck (cervical) and back (lumbar) pain that can occur for a variety of reasons such as trauma, improper use or overuse. ...

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New Jersey author Michael C. Gabriele will present a program on his newest book, “Stories from New Jersey Diners – Monuments to Community.” The program is free and open to the public.  ...

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What: Come out and taste the best BBQ in town paired with All Points West Distillery cocktails.  When: Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 7pm to 9pm  Where: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 224 Market Street,...

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On Wednesdays at 2 pm, Montclair Public Library hosts The Every Wednesday Matinee, a film series presented in its auditorium. In October 2019 we will be watching Hispanic Heritage movies. The...

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Starting on October 12 at 10:30 a.m. the Montclair Public Library will be hosting Citizenship Exam Preparation Classes, presented by JVS. The classes will cover American History, Civics, and how...

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Every Friday and Saturday evening, enjoy a family-friendly fall night out sipping our own fresh-pressed apple cider around a cozy campfire while listening to live music. S’mores kits will be...

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