Routine Run Turns Potentially Lethal


DrStahlman_patient_standing400wideWhat started out as a routine run around Lady Bird Lake on July 5 turned into a potentially lethal type of heart attack for Austin resident Bobby Atnip.

The 66-year-old has been running for more than 40 years, but when he started experiencing severe chest pains that would not go away, he knew something was wrong. He walked up to two strangers and asked them to call 911.

Atnip experienced a heart attack known as a STEMI, which stands for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. This kind of heart attack occurs when a blocked coronary artery prevents blood from getting to the heart muscle.

A STEMI heart attack typically requires a treatment known as an angioplasty, a procedure where a surgeon inserts a balloon in the blocked artery and places a stent to keep the artery open and restore proper blood flow.

“The faster a patient receives treatment, the better his or her chances are of survival,” Dr. Matthew Stahlman, Atnip’s cardiologist at the Ascension Seton Heart Institute, said. “Ideally, angioplasty should be performed within 90 minutes or less from the time the patient arrives to the emergency room with symptoms.”

Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin recently received the Mission: Lifeline Gold Receiving Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of STEMI patients. This is the highest honor awarded for heart attack care.

“Teamwork and efficient coordination is key in ensuring our patients survive heart attacks,” Dr. Mark Pirwitz, Ascension Seton Heart Institute president and chief executive officer, said. “This team includes the 911 dispatchers, EMS (emergency medical services) first responders, the hospital team, emergency room staff and the interventional cardiologists. They all work together to reduce wait times and get the patient to the catheterization lab as quickly as possible.”

Atnip said he was amazed at how fast everything was happening in such a coordinated manner after an ambulance brought him to Ascension Seton Austin.

“Everyone reassured me at every step of the way, which gave me peace of mind that I was going to be OK,” he said.

Atnip has resumed his normal activities and recently celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary.

Ascension Seton Heart Care is also home to the Ascension Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center, which provides the most advanced cardiac care and heart failure management in Central Texas. Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin is the only hospital in the region to earn Joint Commission Certification for a Destination Therapy Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program and Heart Transplant Certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.