A Special Father’s Day for a Dad Who Survived a Widowmaker

Bobby Galvan only remembers collapsing and later waking up  at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital. The 50-year-old father of two had suffered a massive heart attack while  doing yard work.

“I would consider myself a pretty active person,” said Galvan. “Leading up to the heart attack, I don’t remember feeling any of the warning signs.”

Emergency Treatment to Survive a STEMI

When Galvan was admitted to Memorial Hermann Sugar Land, affiliated cardiologist Dr. Rasi Wickramasinghe was among the first to see him. Galvan arrived at the hospital clutching his chest, sweaty and in pain. His blood pressure was dangerously low and the EKG obtained by the Emergency Center physicians showed that he was having a massive heart attack, known as a ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction or STEMI. He was immediately rushed to the catheterization lab where Dr. Wickramasinghe found that the right coronary artery, the large artery that supplies blood to one half of Galvan’s heart, was completely obstructed. In addition, Galvan had another blockage in the so-called “Widowmaker” artery on the left side of his heart.

“Bobby’s right coronary artery was 100 percent obstructed and there was no blood flow. The artery was full of multiple blood clots,” said Dr. Wickramasinghe, who immediately removed the clots and proceeded to place a stent in his artery. The tiny mesh tube was inserted into the blocked artery and, with the help of a small balloon, the stent was expanded so that the artery was completely opened. “Plaque builds up over time in the artery wall, and when the covering of the plaque suddenly breaks open, the entire blood vessel can clot off within seconds causing a heart attack,” said Dr. Wickramasinghe.

His Severe Damage Required More Advanced Treatment

Because the damage from his heart attack was so severe, Galvan  was transferred to Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center (TMC) to receive the higher level of care he needed. “Two out of the three arteries in Bobby’s heart were blocked, and because there was no blood flow for such a long time leading up to his stent, his heart did not respond well,” said Dr. Wickramasinghe.

Galvan was eventually placed on a breathing machine and given medications to help support his blood pressure. In addition, he underwent a second procedure to have the “widowmaker” artery opened as well. “It took us well over four hours to eventually get that second artery open because there was so much plaque inside,” said Dr. Wickramasinghe, who performed Galvan’s second procedure. Using two stents, that artery was also opened successfully.

On the Path to Recovery with Cardiac Rehabilitation  

Galvan recovered for another week before being discharged from the hospital, and then spent a month in cardiac rehab at the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Southwest. Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that has been shown to reduce the risk of re-hospitalization, lessen the need for cardiac medications and encourage a return to work following a heart-related illness. Researchers have reported that people who complete a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program increase their chances of survival and improved quality of life.

“My doctors were great and I’m tracking in a positive direction. I make sure to follow the doctor’s orders. I’m now on medication but also focusing on changes in my diet that can decrease my risk,” said Galvan. “I have a great appreciation for the amount of time and extensive effort that my doctor spent to ensure my full recovery, both at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land and Memorial Hermann-TMC.”

Dr. Wickramasinghe recommends avoidance of unhealthy habits such as smoking or consuming alcohol, and regular follow up with a physician to ensure that risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes are well controlled. At home, he recommends consuming a whole foods diet – rich in unprocessed fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds – with a moderate consumption of meat, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as getting at least 20 minutes of exercise at least three times a week.

Galvan’s renewed focus on his health has given him a second chance to get back to playing softball in his community and enjoying time with his two young daughters and his wife.

Learn more about the cardiac care at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land.

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