Maria Adames will never remember a two-and-a-half-week period in the summer of 2018, but it’s a time her family will never forget.
“I’d been feeling tired and then I was sick for several days before my husband took me to the emergency room at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital. I remember some people asking me some questions and then… nothing,” Adames said.
Cardiologist Rasi Wickramsinghe, MD, or Dr. “Rasi” as he’s called, discovered a blockage in Adames’ left anterior descending (LAD) artery had caused a massive cardiac event, known as a “widowmaker” heart attack. While Dr. Rasi attempted to insert a stent into the artery to restore blood flow, things took a turn.
“While we were attempting to open up the artery, Maria went into cardiac arrest. A member of the care team began CPR to restart her heart, but I knew we couldn’t give up on trying to open her artery. Inserting a stent while someone is doing chest compressions is not easy, but it had to be done if there was any chance in saving her,” Dr. Rasi said.
Over Two Weeks in a Coma
Once the stents were inserted and Adames’ heart began beating again, she was transported by Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) for additional monitoring. Adames said Dr. Rasi continued to support her family, even though he wasn’t in charge of her care at that point.
“Dr. Rasi knew we were a praying family, so when I was taken to the TMC, he told my son to pray, that it might save me. He contacted my son every day to check in on me,” Adames said.
Family from all over the country came to see Adames, worried she would never wake up. Two and a half weeks after she was taken to Memorial Hermann-TMC, Adames regained consciousness.
“I was dying for a Coke,” Adames said with a laugh. “After they took the tubes out, I was determined to do things on my own. I wanted to brush my teeth, take a shower. A kind nurse helped me wash my hair.”
Adames spent a month in the hospital recovering and had nine stents implanted in several arteries. Dr. Rasi said Adames’ story brings to light two important reminders about heart health. First, know the symptoms of a heart attack. Visit the American Heart Association for all the warning signs of a heart attack and the action you should take.
“People associate chest pain with a heart attack, but there are so many other symptoms, especially for women. Women often have the feelings of heartburn or nausea instead,” Dr. Rasi said.
The Importance of Monitoring Your Heart Health
Dr. Rasi says the key to avoiding a heart attack is to monitor your heart health closely.
“People think if they don’t hear about it, it doesn’t exist. So they avoid going to the doctor and getting checked out,” Dr. Rasi said.
“You need to have annual checkups so you can monitor things like your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your blood sugar levels. All these things can contribute to your risk of a heart attack. Identifying the risk factors early so that you can manage those symptoms is the most effective way to prevent a heart attack.”
It’s advice Adames has incorporated into her “new normal,” which includes dedicating more attention to her heart health.
“I’m doing everything the doctors are telling me to do. I’ve made a life commitment to diet change. No fat, little-to-no sugar, no salt. I’m even losing some weight as a result,” Adames said.