On an ordinary Thursday night, 67-year-old Maynard Coulson was, as usual, at Merrill Wesleyan Church. A part of the praise team, he and a few other members of the congregation were getting ready to rehearse for Sunday morning services. “I felt a little pain in my chest after moving a speaker and started sweating but I brushed it off and we started practicing,” he said.
Thanks to fast action by paramedics and MidMichigan’s Regional STEMI Alert Team, Maynard Coulson is back to living an active, healthy life after suffering from a STEMI heart attack.
But the pain got a lot worse. His niece, Sarah, noticed that he didn’t look right and started asking questions. “When I told her the pain was in the center of my chest, she called 911 and told them she thought I was having a heart attack,” he said.
“While we waited for the ambulance to arrive, they had me chew a few baby aspirins,” Coulson said. “When the paramedics got there, they didn’t waste any time. They immediately hooked me up and were relaying numbers and results within minutes. Everything worked just like it was supposed to.”
The paramedics had immediately checked Coulson’s vital signs and performed a 12-lead ECG that revealed he was having an ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attack.
In STEMI patients, the coronary artery is completely blocked off by a blood clot. As a result of this blockage, all of the heart muscle being supplied by the affected artery starts to die.
Upon determining the severity of the situation, the paramedics followed a streamlined process referred to as MidMichigan’s Regional STEMI Alert Program. It is designed to rapidly identify patients who are suffering from a STEMI heart attack so treatment can be expedited upon arrival at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland.
It was a rough ride to MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland, Coulson said. “I was in a lot of pain but I could hear the paramedics talking. I didn’t know anything about the STEMI program, but when we got to the hospital we didn’t go to the ER. We went around by the maternity entrance and there was a cath team waiting. I went from the ambulance to the gurney and they started working.”
Interventional Cardiologist Michael Lauer, M.D., led the team that cared for Coulson. “When they started, my pain was a 9.5 out of 10,” Coulson said. “They found one plugged artery and tried a balloon angioplasty but it (the artery) collapsed when they pulled it out. Then they put in a stent and I remember feeling the pain go away.”
While the immediate threat was taken care of, three other arteries needed repair. “I ended up with three bypasses in addition to the stent,” Coulson said. “I had that surgery on a Friday and was discharged the following Wednesday.”
Coulson said he hadn’t been a patient in a hospital since 1965. “I was very impressed with the whole operation,” he said. “The doctors and nurses were really great and did their best to put us all at ease. They are just top notch people.”
Looking back, Coulson said he had experienced some symptoms but didn’t connect them to his heart health. “I didn’t have as much ambition as usual,” he said. “I was content to just relax after dinner and that’s not like me.” He had also experienced angina and thought it was indigestion. “I noticed that if I exerted myself after eating, the pain would start.” In fact, just one month before his heart attack, he had an acute attack of angina that he again attributed to stomach issues.
He admits the heart attack caught him by surprise. “I didn’t think I had risk factors,” Coulson said. “I don’t drink or smoke. Both my parents had bypass surgery, but they were older. My son had problems at age 37 and ended up with two stents.” For years, Coulson had also taken medications to lower cholesterol and manage hypertension.
Today, Coulson feels healthy and blessed. “It was definitely a reality check,” he said. “Don’t take anything for granted. If you have issues, look into it. I had an appointment set up with my doctor and I was going to ask him about pain after eating. I should have called him months ago. If you have problems, don’t blow them off. If you notice something is different, talk to your doctor.”
With state protocols now in place, MidMichigan’s Regional STEMI Alert Program is approved for up to a 90-minute patient transport time to MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland. To ensure the overall success of the program, MidMichigan Medical Center – Emergency Medical Services actively collaborates with other area EMS providers to provide ongoing training and support. Those interested in more information on MidMichigan’s Regional STEMI Alert Program may visit www.midmichigan.org/stemi.