When Heart Attack Strikes, Every Second Counts
Thinking back, Devender Vittedi doesn’t remember the details of the day he collapsed. He only knows what happened because of the stories he has heard from his teammates, wife, and medical practitioners.
It was a Sunday evening in August and he was playing tennis with friends. “I remember being very hot, more hot than normal, but I just ignored it because it was August in Ohio – very humid and muggy. Other than that, I didn’t have any strange feelings or symptoms. Nothing was out of the ordinary,” he recalled.
The rest is a blur.
Devender later learned from his teammates that he started acting sluggish and said he needed to rest. Shortly thereafter, he collapsed. His teammates immediately called the paramedics and tried resuscitating him by following instructions given to them over the phone by the medical dispatcher.
“As an avid tennis, badminton, and volleyball player, I always thought of myself as active and in shape,” said Devender. “At my young age, a heart condition was the last thing on my mind.”
Devender was air-lifted to University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. Interventional cardiologist Dr. Sahil Parikh learned Devender had suffered from ventricular fibrillation, a severely abnormal contraction of the heart muscle. If the condition lasts longer than a few seconds, it can result in sudden cardiac death. Often the cause of ventricular fibrillation is lack of oxygen to the heart due to a narrowed heart artery – a heart attack. This was what had happened to Devender.
Known as cardiogenic shock, Devender’s heart had been so damaged that it was unable to supply enough blood to his organs. He was transferred by helicopter to University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization laboratory, where an emergency cardiac catheterization was performed. Devender’s interventional cardiologist found a 100 percent blockage of the left anterior decending coronary artery, a blockage that is often fatal. They performed angioplasty to open Devender’s blocked artery and implanted a stent to help keep the artery open. His doctor also implanted an intra-aortic balloon pump to assist Devender’s weakened heart muscle while it recovered and started therapeutic hypothermia to cool his body to reduce the damage that the low oxygen levels could have on his brain. Simultaneously, he was put into induced coma for eight days. Doctors took these steps to give Devender’s body a chance to heal.
“My wife was informed I might suffer brain damage. Fortunately, that didn’t happen,” said Devender.
When Devender finally awoke, he had no recollection of what happened. “It appeared I caused quite a chaotic scene in the cardiac ICU. I awoke disoriented and became agitated by the large amount of medical equipment hooked up to me. I just didn’t believe what had happened — that something like that could happen to me,” said Devender.
Later, during a second stenting procedure to open additional blocked arteries in Devender’s heart, doctors discovered that two stents would be necessary to restore optimal blood flow. For this procedure, Devender was awake.
“I was completely aware of what was going on. I was even able to watch the procedure on screen. There was absolutely no pain — I couldn’t feel a thing. I remember thinking that drawing blood hurts worse than this!”
Devender was released from the hospital 18 days after he was admitted. He was weak from the multiple procedures and the induced coma, but his doctors encouraged him to get on his feet and walking.
“It’s incredible to think that a short time ago my heart was severely damaged, but after only two or three months I was back to playing tennis, badminton, and volleyball,” he said.
On top of his regular workout routine, Devender just finished a 10K race and is currently training for a half marathon. He is working his way toward completing a full marathon, one of his life-long goals. He has also made drastic changes to his diet and as a result, has seen his cholesterol numbers greatly improve.
Devender’s healthy habits are not only improving his quality of life, but his entire neighborhood as well. Living in a tight-knit area, many of his neighbors could not believe what had happened to Devender — especially given the active lifestyle he led. As a result, many joined wellness programs and began getting regular medical check-ups.
“Even my family members who are located throughout the United States and India are taking my experience as a lesson learned. I’m happy to be influencing people around the world to be more proactive about their heart health.”