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Wife credits Piedmont teamwork for saving husband from “widow maker”

Chest pain can occur suddenly and for some people, the first episode of pain can have fatal consequences if not treated immediately. Fortunately for Piedmont patient Wayne Quinn – who waited two weeks before mentioning a chest pain occurrence to his physician – his healthcare teams in Newnan and Atlanta worked quickly to save his life. Quinn remembers feeling chest pain for the first time while unloading his car after a trip to Florida.

The pain spread from the center of his chest outward and was so intense that he dropped his bags and sat in a rocking chair on his front porch. After about a minute and a half, the pain subsided. Because the it went away as quickly as it started, Quinn did not mention the pain to anyone. Two weeks later, he went for a routine six-month checkup with Vijay Patel, M.D., a pulmonologist at Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

As Dr. Patel concluded the exam, Quinn mentioned that he had experienced chest pain a few weeks prior. The admission took Quinn’s wife Linda by surprise. “I said to Dr. Patel, ‘I’m hearing this the same time you’re hearing this,’” she recalls. “Dr. Patel looked at him very seriously and said, ‘You have got to go to the heart doctor ASAP.’”

After leaving Dr. Patel’s office on a Friday afternoon, the couple called their daughter Sharon Sherlock to let her know her father was going to see a cardiologist the following Monday morning. On Monday, Quinn underwent a stress test and echocardiogram at the Piedmont Newnan Hospital Cardiovascular Imaging Center, says Sherlock.

“There seemed to be no problem. I went through everything fairly easily,” says Quinn. “We got home later that evening and got a phone call from Dr. George Vellanikaran. He wanted to do a cardiac catheterization.”

The next day at 9 a.m., Quinn underwent diagnostic cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a small, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into the groin or arm and is then advanced into the heart. The catheter allows for a number of diagnostic tests to check for heart conditions.     “The next thing I know, people are coming around saying, ‘He needs a stent put in,’” says Quinn.

“Dr. Vellanikaran did the [diagnostic] cath and came out to see me afterward,” explains Quinn’s wife. “He told me he has a blockage. He didn’t say anything that would get me so nervous and upset that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. But I knew it was serious when he said, ‘Do you want him to go to Fayette or to Piedmont Atlanta?’”

Piedmont Fayette did not have any cath lab openings at the time, so Dr. Vellanikaran’s team called for an ambulance to take him to Piedmont Atlanta. “We were traveling 95 mph up I-85,” says Linda.  As soon as they arrived at Piedmont Fuqua Heart Center, Quinn was rushed into the procedure room.  

“Next thing I know, I’m in the cardio stent room and it seemed to go very quickly,” says Quinn. Interventional cardiologist Harold Carlson inserted a tiny coil called a stent into the artery to open the blockage. “To find out afterward when Dr. Carlson came in and explained to us how serious it had been – I knew it was serious, but I didn’t know it was that serious,” says Linda.

Quinn was diagnosed with a 95 percent blockage in his artery, known as a “widow maker.” She says she doesn’t know what would have happened to her husband if his physicians at Newnan and Atlanta had not worked as a team.

“If they hadn’t detected the blockage, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here today,” says Quinn. “I had the warning with the attack when I was unloading the car. Who knows – the next one could have been fatal.” For more information about chest pain treatment and prevention, visit the Piedmont Heart Institute.

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