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Surviving the ‘Widow-Maker’

  • Author: Rick & Cindy Staley
  • Date Submitted: Aug 13, 2021
  • Category: Cardiology

"It’s an amazing device—it’s lifesaving."

Clarion, BHS hospital teams saved Rick Staley’s life. One gray August morning in 2019, Rick Staley and his stepson were returning from a rained-out job site near Warren when Rick began to have what he thought was bad indigestion. “I felt it in my sternum,” recalls Rick, who owns a heavy-construction company and lives in Clarion. “Pressure, like I wished I could burp.” But when his jaw started hurting, Rick began to suspect he was having a heart attack. (Luckily, his wife, Cindy, had taught him the signs.) In fact, Rick was having a severe type of heart attack nicknamed the “widow-maker.” Rick had his stepson drive him to Clarion Hospital, where Rick went into cardiac arrest shortly after arrival. The emergency department team, led by Michael Hoh, DO, worked quickly. They used a defibrillator to restart Rick’s heart. “We had to shock him numerous times,” Dr. Hoh says.

Rapid Care and a Tiny Heart Pump

After Dr. Hoh’s emergency team stabilized Rick’s condition, a helicopter rushed Rick to Butler Health System (BHS). BHS is capable of performing emergency cardiac catheterization to treat heart attacks. determined that Rick’s left anterior descending coronary artery was 100% blocked. That type of blockage can cause the heart to stop very quickly, which is why it is called the widow-maker. Dr. Rao used a catheter to open the artery so that blood could flow freely. Then he placed a stent in the artery to help keep it open. But now Rick faced another life-threatening problem. His massive heart attack had led to cardiogenic shock—his heart couldn’t pump enough blood to his critical organs. So Dr. Rao temporarily placed a tiny pump, the Impella, in Rick’s heart. The device helped Rick’s heart pump efficiently while his heart recovered. “It’s an amazing device—it’s lifesaving,” Dr. Rao says. “My impression was that he would do well with it. And he did.” In fact, Rick went back to work a month after his heart attack “and had absolutely no trouble,” he says. It helped that he received rapid treatment and access to the best heart technology. “It was a good team effort,” Dr. Rao says.

Heartfelt Thanks

Rick and Cindy are grateful to the medical teams at both hospitals. “They saved my life—no doubt,” Rick says, without hesitation.