Stopping a Widow Maker

October 28, 2019
Health News - Fall 2019 - Stopping a Widow Maker

“When I woke from a sound sleep gasping for breath, I knew something was really wrong.” — Todd Montgomery

By all accounts, Montgomery, 75, appeared to be in good health. He’d recently had a checkup and there were no warning signs of any serious issues. He enjoys travel with his wife, Sue, he blogs about wineries, takes his dogs on long walks, works in his garden and spends time on his artistic hobbies. But one night, he woke up in a state of panic, struggling to breathe.

His wife called 9-1-1 and paramedics arrived and took him to Temecula Valley Hospital, a short distance away. “I recall the terrible feeling of not being able to breathe,” he says. “I felt a crackling in my lungs and began to wonder if I would make it. But by the time I arrived at the hospital, the oxygen had helped and I was breathing a little easier.”

After running several tests in the ER, doctors determined that Montgomery had indeed suffered a heart attack, and began to prep him for a cardiac catheterization. This is a minimally invasive procedure that detects blockages near the heart. And many times, the blockage can be treated immediately. Cardiologist Andrew Ho, MD, found three blocked coronary arteries, one of which was the left anterior descending artery, known as the “widow maker.” “We have advanced stent technology and employ techniques so patients with coronary artery disease and heart attacks can be treated quickly and efficiently,” says Dr. Ho. “This allows us to save even the sickest patients with much less risk than before.”

Learn more about heart care at Temecula Valley >

To restore blood flow, Dr. Ho inserted a stent into the largest blockage. Following the procedure, Montgomery was taken to the ICU and monitored because he still had some residual fluid in his lungs following the heart attack.

“Mr. Montgomery suffered from a serious form of heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI),” says Dr. Ho. “Patients with this type of heart attack need to get to a heart-specialized medical center, like Temecula Valley Hospital, and fast! The more time that elapses with a blocked artery, the less likely the patient will survive. That’s why we have a team on call 24/7.”

Montgomery says he was moved to a regular room the next day feeling much better. “After a few days, I was stabilized enough for Dr. Ho to place a stent in the second artery, and they are watching the third artery. I’m taking new medications now and I feel better than I have in a long time, and the other blockage may not need a stent if these medications can help stabilize it,” he says.

In reflecting on his six-day stay at Temecula Valley Hospital, Montgomery says he had a great patient experience. “They saved my life and I am so grateful. We can’t say enough about them,” he says. “I’m glad we live so close to such an excellent hospital that specializes in cardiac care. When we first moved to Temecula nine years ago, there was no hospital here. My wife and I believe the proximity and excellence of this hospital saved my life.”

What is STEMI designation?

To achieve STEMI designation, a hospital has to meet stringent criteria, which includes having a well-trained and fully staffed cardiac team on call 24/7. A hospital also needs a team of cardiologists with collective experience in treating a STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction) heart attack, which is not a typical heart attack. The hospital also has to demonstrate that all processes are seamless when patients arrive.