Back in the Saddle After Surviving Two Heart Attacks

An American suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds according to the American Heart Association. Texas rancher Clifford Vacek, 70, fell victim to this statistic not once, but twice.

In 2004,  Vacek had started his job as the Honorable Clifford Vacek, judge of the 400th district court in Fort Bend County.  New to the bench, Vacek said it was a stressful time.  He liked to do things right and he was pushing himself and working hard, not only on the job, but also on his cattle ranch where he resides.

A Memorable April Fool’s Day

April 1, 2005, was unseasonably cool.  Vacek and his wife, Carole, jumped at the chance to relax by the fire.  Before cutting firewood, Vacek changed his clothes and grabbed a piece of chicken his wife was frying for dinner.  After eating the chicken, he had a funny feeling in his chest.  Thinking it was indigestion, he drank a glass of water and tried to belch.

When Vacek still had the funny feeling 30-minutes later, he grew more worried.  He sat down to rest and started to sweat profusely.

Vacek was experiencing symptoms in line with those the AHA says can be signs of heart attack, including chest discomfort and breaking out in a cold sweat, as well as shortness of breath, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, and nausea or lightheadedness.

“Sweat was just pouring off me,” recalled Vacek.  “I knew something wasn’t right and I told my wife we needed to head to the emergency room.”

Sure enough, Vacek was suffering a heart attack.  An electrocardiogram (EKG) was used to identify the blockages and Vacek subsequently had two stents placed.

Déjà Vu

Fast forward twelve years later. Vacek was doing well and was happily retired from the bench, but still spent days tending to his ranch.

On June 30, after a few days of climbing hills in Del Rio, Vacek arrived home and jumped into helping his neighbors.  One neighbor needed help to tow a tractor, while another needed Vacek to help load a heifer into a trailer.

After 15 minutes of intense physical labor, Vacek experienced a familiar feeling.  He took a break, drank a bottle of water and tried to belch.  He then sat in his truck with the air on high and started to sweat.

This time, Vacek didn’t hesitate to get help.  He drove straight to Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Katy.

“I walked in to the Emergency Center and told the receptionist I was having chest pains,” said Vacek.  “In no time at all, I was in a room undergoing another EKG.  I was having a full-fledged heart attack.”

Fast Access to a Network of Chest Pain Specialists

The staff loaded Vacek in an ambulance and sent him to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, where Imran Dar, M.D., an interventional cardiologist affiliated with the hospital was waiting with a team of specialists to transport him to the cardiac catheterization lab.

“One of the greatest benefits of being a patient in the Memorial Hermann Health System is the continuum of care,” said Dr. Dar.  “In this case, before Mr. Vacek even left the Convenient Care Center, I was speaking to the onsite emergency medicine physician, Dr. Johnathon Kerns, and reviewing Mr. Vacek’s chart, including the EKG.  As a result, Mr. Vacek was able to bypass the hospital’s Emergency Center and go straight to the cardiac catheterization lab.”

“Within minutes, and from afar, I was able to diagnose Mr. Vacek with ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a very serious type of heart attack where one of the heart’s major arteries is blocked, and prepare for his arrival,” he added.

Ultimately, Dr. Dar performed percutaneous coronary intervention via the right radial artery.

Less than a week later, Vacek was back to baling hay.

“Even though Mr. Vacek has had two cardiac events, due to the prompt and expert medical care that he received, there is no damage to his heart muscle,” said Dr. Dar.  “He has returned to normal activity with no restrictions.”

Back at the Ranch Thanks to the Power of Teamwork

“While I would have preferred to forego the second heart attack, I can say with 100 percent certainty that it was the best medical experience I’ve ever had,” added Vacek. “From the moment I entered the Convenient Care Center through my discharge from the hospital, I witnessed fantastic teamwork amongst experienced medical teams.  Thanks to their expertise, I have gone back to doing what I love most – working the ranch.”

Would you recognize the signs of a heart attack?  Click here to learn more.

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