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Published on May 18, 2021

Hendersonville Woman Survives Deadliest Type of Heart Attack Thanks to Swift Treatment at Pardee UNC Health Care



On Monday, April 12, Jeanne Wenger, 81, was shopping in Walmart when she began to feel ill. “I started sweating like crazy and was feeling sick, so I went to the back of the store to sit down,” she says.


Wenger called her husband, who was in another store nearby. He returned to the Walmart entrance to pick her up. “By the time I got to the door, I was having pain in my jaw and teeth,” she explains. “When I got in the car, my chest started feeling really heavy.” Her husband said he was taking her to the hospital and they called 911 on the way.


By the time they reached Pardee, things moved quickly. “They took me in and within an hour, I had a stent in my heart,” says Wenger.


After the procedure, Pardee interventional cardiologist Umberto Fontana, M.D., FACC, explained that two of Wenger’s arteries were blocked. She had experienced an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), a very dangerous type of heart attack that occurs when one or more of the heart’s major arteries are completely or almost completely blocked.


“Mrs. Wegner had two critical blockages on her heart catheterization,” says Dr. Fontana. “Her EKG suggested that the culprit artery was the right coronary artery, which was stented immediately. There was an additional blockage in another artery that was likely to cause residual symptoms and was stented two days later. Studies have shown performing ‘complete revascularization’ prior to discharge prevents recurrent hospitalizations, heart attacks and improves survival.”


Wenger said she immediately felt better after the stent was placed.


“When I came out of the OR, Dr. Fontana asked how I felt,” she says. “I felt like a fog had been lifted from my body. I feel really good now and have energy – I feel like a different person. I’d been so tired before and didn’t know why.”


While Wenger has high blood pressure and cholesterol – both risk factors for heart disease – the conditions were well-controlled with medication. She’s also as active as possible. She said Dr. Fontana believes her heart attack was hereditary because several people on her father’s side of the family had heart problems.


Wenger cautions others to pay attention to any symptoms that don’t feel right: “I thought I was sick,” she says. “But I didn’t think of a heart attack until I got in the car and my chest felt so heavy.”


“The ‘classic’ presentation of a heart attack is an ‘elephant sitting on the chest,’ but it is actually more typical to present with pressure, tightness, fullness or heaviness,” says Dr. Fontana. “She also had typical associated symptoms of jaw and teeth pain, nausea, and sweating.”


Other heart attack symptoms include lightheadedness, shortness of breath and pain in the neck, back, shoulders, or arms.


“Mrs. Wenger had symptoms that preceded her heart attack that are typical for lack of blood flow to the heart: exercise intolerance and fatigue,” says Dr. Fontana. “If you experience these symptoms, it warrants an evaluation by a health care professional and likely blood work and possibly a stress test.”
Wenger is grateful for the care she received at Pardee.


“Dr. Fontana explains everything so well. You know what’s going on all the time,” she says. “They really took good care of me.”


Pardee was recently designated a Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Hospital by the North Carolina EMS Medical Director, demonstrating its capability to ensure quality 24/7 STEMI care. A PCI Hospital is equipped with personnel, infrastructure and expertise to diagnose and treat patients who require intensive medical care, specialized tests, or interventional therapies. Pardee is now one of only two hospitals in western North Carolina able to provide this level of care.


“Pardee has demonstrated a commitment to a high-quality primary PCI program for patients in Hendersonville and surrounding counties who are having a heart attack,” says Dr. Fontana. “The goal is to minimize time to revascularization, which correlates with survival and preserved heart function. I am part of a great team, which includes EMS, the emergency department staff, the cath lab staff and administrators who set a high bar for quality.”


Pardee UNC Health Care is a not-for-profit community hospital founded in 1953 and is managed by UNC Health Care. The hospital is licensed for 222 acute care beds. Pardee has several locations separate from the main campus, including a comprehensive physician practice network, a cancer center, four urgent care locations and six orthopedic clinics. For more information or to find a physician, visit www.pardeehospital.org.

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