Buddy’s Last Cigarette

By Meredith Whittemore

Buddy Reid’s life completely changed in the span of 15 minutes.

“I went out to have a cigarette at 10 that morning, and by 10:15 I was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” Reid said.

Reid remembers feeling a “weird type of tired” while working in the ground support division at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. His co-worker sat him down and called 911 before Reid was rushed to Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital. Reid later learned he was having a heart attack due to a blockage in his left anterior descending artery, commonly known as the widow-maker, because of the high mortality rates associated with blockages in the artery. 

Every Second Counts

“When treating a heart attack and trying to save the heart, every second counts. We say, ‘time is myocardium,’ or heart muscle,” said Khaled Khalaf, MD, FACC, FSCAI, an interventional cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Northeast. “EMS alerted us they were bringing in a patient showing signs of a massive heart attack, and so we were ready and waiting for Buddy.”

Reid’s memory of his arrival at the hospital is foggy for good reason.

“Buddy’s heart arrested several times, even as we were rolling him up to the cath lab to insert a coronary stent and open the artery. He had to be shocked several times, with multiple rounds of CPR, to get his heart beating normally again,” Dr. Khalaf said.

After Reid’s heart stabilized, Dr. Khalaf was able to place a stent, restoring normal blood flow to the heart. Reid was discharged a few days later and back to his usual routine in about a week. Reid is still shocked by what happened.

“I had been having my regular physicals. I didn’t have any signs of a heart problem.  My family doesn’t have a history of heart disease.  It really happened out of the blue,” Reid said.

Dr. Khalaf said Reid’s experience is not unusual.

Heart Attacks Are Like Volcanoes

“I compare having a heart attack to a volcano erupting. It can happen without warning. It’s why I believe at some point in most people’s life, they need a visit with a heart doctor. The basic, non-invasive screening tests a cardiologist may perform can help identify any volcanoes that are on the brink of erupting,” said Dr. Khalaf.

Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and aging increase the risk factors for a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). February is Heart Month, a time when the AHA encourages people to learn more about their heart health and take steps to decrease their risk of having a heart attack. For Reid, that meant quitting smoking.

Quitting for Good

“That morning cigarette was my last one. I haven’t had a cigarette since,” Reid said. “Now, I tell everyone to go get checked out. Just because you don’t feel any symptoms doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. If nothing else, it establishes a baseline for future tests.”

“Buddy is very lucky. Everything worked together in the right way, with the appropriate timing, to save his life and get him on the path to a good recovery. Between the quick EMS response alerting us they were on the way, our ER medical staff ready to perform immediate CPR, getting Buddy to the cath lab as quickly as possible, and having the capabilities to treat major blockages like his, it was a life-saving team effort,” Dr. Khalaf said.

Learn more about treatment for heart attacks, or schedule an appointment with a cardiologist near you.

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