Heart attacks don’t care how old (or young) you are
Just ask James Jeunelot, who had a heart attack at 43.
Beth Stambaugh Published: 4/25/2018
After a long holiday weekend, James Jeunelot hit the gym for a tough morning workout. As he went through his routine, he noticed some pain in his right shoulder while bench pressing. At 43 and in good shape, he ignored the pain and kept going, determined to reach his goal.
“All of a sudden, I started sweating bullets,” Jeunelot said. “But I thought it was just from the workout.” By the third set, he had severe chest pain, so he cut the workout short and drove home. After showering and getting dressed, he was still perspiring heavily and had pain on his right side.
“I could tell something wasn’t right with James,” his wife Crystal said. “I googled his symptoms — profuse sweating, chest and shoulder pain — and the results kept bringing up heart attack. Even though he didn’t have all the symptoms, I knew something was wrong.”
Jeunelot wanted to go to work, but Crystal got him to agree to check his blood pressure first. “It was 160 over 110. At that point, it was clear to both of us that he needed to get to Baptist Medical Center South as soon as possible,” Crystal said.
The couple didn’t know it at the time, but Jeunelot was experiencing the “widow maker,” so called because a blockage of the heart’s main artery is typically fatal if not treated immediately.
Baptist South’s ER, like all of the Baptist Health hospitals, is nationally accredited as a Chest Pain Center, which means the patient will receive rapid cardiac diagnosis and intervention in the event of a heart attack.
“In what seemed like about 30 seconds, I was already in an exam room with the medical team surrounding me,” Jeunelot said. An electrocardiogram revealed he had a 100 percent blockage in his left coronary artery, so he was rushed to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab for an emergency balloon angioplasty (surgical repair of an artery) and a stent to keep the artery open.
“We were able to do this procedure in a minimally invasive way,” Bharat Gummadi, MD, said. In the Cath Lab, the physican threads a small catheter through an artery in the arm or groin to treat blockages in heart vessels.
Dr. Gummadi performed the angioplasty just 41 minutes after Jeunelot arrived at the emergency room. The American Heart Association’s recommended guideline is 90 minutes.
Jeunelot returned home just three days after his heart attack. He has modified his diet to one that is low in fat and salt, and now takes medication to regulate his blood pressure and cholesterol. His good habits are making a difference; three years after his heart attack, he still has a clean bill of health.
“I never would have expected this at my age,” Jeunelot said. “I was never a big fan of doctors, but I am now. I see Dr. Gummadi regularly, and listen to what he says. Even if you’re young, know your numbers and do what it takes to get them in a good range.”