Flying planes. Bungee jumping. Riding motorcycles. They’re just a part of the adventurous lifestyle Milton Santos has always led. Then in July 2017, a severe heart attack threatened to put an end to all of it.
“I was cleaning the pool and started feeling strange; it was something I’d never felt before. I told my son I needed to go to the hospital, and within the time it took for him to drive me to the Emergency Center, I was in intense pain,” remembers Santos.
Santos arrived at the Emergency Center at Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a heart attack and underwent an emergency coronary stent procedure to clear the artery that caused the attack.
Intervening to Restore Blood Flow
“He had a 100 percent blockage in his Left Anterior Descending Coronary Artery (LAD) which is also commonly called the ‘widowmaker,’ as many patients don’t survive this type of heart attack. He was quickly taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where I inserted three stents into his artery,” says Ahmad Aslam, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Cypress.
Dr. Aslam also discovered several more arteries with varying levels of blockage, and Santos would eventually have five stents inserted into his arteries over several days. Santos says while he had to take it slow for a few months and make some lifestyle changes, he was happy when Dr. Aslam cleared him to return to his previous lifestyle.
“I’d seen other people slow down after having a heart attack, but not me. I may be 56 years old, but I’m not ready to slow down,” says Santos.
Dr. Aslam says the key to Santos’ full recovery was his timely treatment.
“Think of the heart muscle like a tree in need of water. If you can get water to the tree quickly, you can prevent permanent damage to the tree. If you don’t, the tree can die. The heart is the same way during a heart attack. It’s not getting enough “water” because one of the arteries supplying blood is severely or completely blocked. Time is of the essence when it comes to preventing permanent damage to the heart. The more quickly you can receive treatment, the better your chances are at recovery,” says Dr. Aslam.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Dr. Aslam says it’s important for people to know the signs of a heart attack so that they seek medical assistance as soon as they recognize the symptoms. The American Heart Association says the warning signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Nausea or lightheadedness
Returning to an Active Life
Santos’ adventurous life continues, including a recent trip to South America.
“Sometimes we think we’re invincible and we’re not. I’m thankful that I had such excellent care and was able to return to my normal lifestyle. It makes me feel better knowing that if something were to happen in the future, the excellent physicians and staff at Memorial Hermann Cypress are there to put me back together again,” says Santos.
Cardiologist and cardiovascular surgeons affiliated with Memorial Hermann work in close collaboration to utilize innovative techniques and cutting-edge medicine to provide patients with the best possible clinical quality.
Learn more about the risk factors for a heart attack, or schedule an appointment with one of our affiliated cardiologists who can explain more about the lifestyle changes and medication options that could help you prevent a future heart attack.