“This doesn’t happen to cardiologists”

When William Wilson, MD, PPG – Cardiology, started experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, he was in denial. He generously shares his story as a caution to others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

I was 63. I’m a doctor, a cardiologist, and cardiologists don’t do a lot of sitting at work. I’m fortunate that I have a very active job. Plus, I exercise on top of that, and have for years. That’s why I was so surprised by the events of January 22, 2018.

I was feeling great. I was on vacation, as a matter of fact. My wife was going to exercise and she invited me along. I’d just started on the stair climber. The symptoms came on initially in a mild way. It started as chest discomfort. You would think I would know what this was, but I didn’t for about 30-60 seconds. For the amount of exercise I was doing, I was dripping wet in sweat. I was in denial; Trying to talk myself out of the fact this was happening to me. This doesn’t happen to cardiologists.

It’s one thing to experience pain, but it’s another to feel this overwhelming sense of doom. It’s very common to have to go to the bathroom during a heart attack. It’s part of the whole nervous system being activated. Sure enough I had to go. I was in the bathroom and I prayed.

I told my wife and she went through all of the things I’ve had wrong with me. I said, ‘No, I’m having a heart attack.’ She was awesome. She took care of business. I’m used to calling the emergency room to tell them I have a patient having a heart attack, but I’ve never called to say I was having a heart attack. By the time I pulled up, they were all ready. They were in as much amazement as I was.

The key to treating a heart attack is to get to the hospital as quickly as you can. Then the cardiology and hospital team take it from there. They really move. With every breath, I realize I’m very fortunate. It could have gone a different way. I treat patients every day experiencing what I experienced. I’m lucky to be alive. I believe my partners at the Parkview Heart Institute, not only the doctors but the Cath Lab and emergency room staff made sure that everything went like clockwork. I have such a tremendous amount of gratitude for everyone who helped take care of me. I couldn’t have had better care.

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