For the media

A lifesaving call for an unexpected heart attack

By The Health News Team | February 3, 2022
LaWanda Martin, admin secretary at Sharp Memorial Hospital

LaWanda Martin is thankful her doctor detected her heart attack, leading to a lifesaving stent procedure at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

LaWanda Martin was vacationing in Cape Cod when she suddenly felt dull pain in the center of her chest and tingling in her arm. She decided not to go on a walk planned with her husband and instead took a mild painkiller, assuming her pain was associated with a shoulder surgery from a year prior.

Throughout the rest of that 2017 trip to the East Coast, LaWanda felt chest pain nearly every day.

“There were a couple of times over the years I felt my heartbeat would get off rhythm while doing simple things, like walking or kneeling,” says LaWanda, 55, an administration secretary for the Emergency Department (ED) at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “But nothing ever came of it and, overall, I really didn’t have any health issues.”

LaWanda brushed off going to urgent care while traveling, not wanting to bother her friends. But on the way home to San Diego, she struggled to keep up with her husband at the airport. She made an appointment with her primary care doctor, Dr. Jennifer Simkin Kostrinsky, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, as soon as she returned home.

“I told my doctor that my pain was probably due to the shoulder surgery, but she ordered lab work to check,” says LaWanda.

At the appointment, LaWanda’s blood was drawn and she had an electrocardiogram (EKG), which observes electrical signals in the heart. The EKG showed no immediate issues with LaWanda’s heart, so she continued with her day and went to work.

A surprising call and lifesaving surgery
About an hour later, LaWanda’s doctor called, advising her to go to the Emergency Department immediately. Her blood test showed an elevation in troponin, a type of protein that the heart’s muscle releases into the bloodstream when it becomes damaged.

“I was shocked,” says LaWanda. “I couldn’t believe it really was my heart.”

LaWanda, who works in the Emergency Department at Sharp Memorial, was able to just walk down the hall to receive the care she needed. Dr. Lisa Gleason, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group and Sharp Memorial, ordered an angiogram.

The scan, which shows blood flow in the arteries, detected blockages in LaWanda’s heart. She had suffered a non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (non-STEMI), a type of heart attack that occurs when not enough blood carries oxygen to the heart.

Dr. Robert Kumar, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group and Sharp Memorial, performed a procedure to widen LaWanda’s arteries in the heart by inserting stents — tiny tubes — via a catheter.

“My entire Sharp care team was awesome,” says LaWanda. “Because I already worked in the ED, I knew several of the staff members who treated me, and I felt at ease.”

LaWanda recovered at the hospital for about two nights before she went home. Since then, she has managed her heart health with medications such as beta blockers, which help protect the heart from another heart attack. She also sees Dr. Gleason for follow-up appointments.

The importance of heeding chest pain
Dr. Gleason stresses that people should immediately seek prompt medical attention if they develop chest pain.

“LaWanda was leading a healthy lifestyle, and to her knowledge, she had no health issues,” says Dr. Gleason. “But her story highlights the importance of getting checked by a doctor just in case.”

Today, LaWanda is grateful that she is healthy as she continues her 32nd year working for Sharp HealthCare.

“I am so thankful that my doctor decided to run some lab work,” says LaWanda. “I am still surprised when I think back to that day. You never know what can happen, so I encourage everyone to frequently check on their health.”

Learn more about heart and vascular care at Sharp.

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