Alan Mortimer’s arm hurt. The 53-year-old construction inspector for Prince William County was having pain in his arm that he attributed to a pinched nerve.
“I’ve been in construction my entire life,” says Mortimer. “I’m used to back problems and muscle pain. But on that day I just couldn’t shake the pain in my arm, so I left work to go home and lie down to try and ease the pain.”
While driving home, Mortimer stopped at the red light on Minnieville Road and Summit School Road. He lit a cigarette and then began sweating profusely -- he was drenched within seconds.
“All of a sudden I was soaked with sweat and my arm was still hurting,” says Mortimer. “When the light turned green I made a left and then decided to turn into the new [Sentara Lake Ridge] emergency room on the corner. I knew something wasn’t right and I figured I’d better have them check me out.”
‘You’re having a heart attack right now’
“When I walked to the front desk and explained to the woman what was wrong, she said, ‘forget about the paperwork – I’m taking you back immediately,’” explained Mortimer. “About a minute later they hooked me up to the EKG machine and the nurse said, ‘you’re having a heart attack right now.”
The staff at Sentara Lake Ridge then gave Mortimer blood thinning medicine and called for an immediate transfer to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. Once there, he was whisked to the Sentara Heart and Vascular Center where he was treated by cardiologist Dr. Kambeez Berenji.
“When Mr. Mortimer arrived at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center we took him immediately to the Cath Lab and inserted a stent to open up his arteries,” says Dr. Berenji. “Time is of the essence when someone is having a cardiac event and in his case everything went very quickly. It only took 61 minutes from the time he walked into Sentara Lake Ridge Emergency Room until we were finished placing his stent at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.”
According to the team leader of the Sentara Lake Ridge Emergency Room, Dynette Rombough, R.N., teamwork is what made the difference.
“It’s about the team working together for the benefit of the patient,” says Rombough. “Everything went like clockwork and everything was in place, from the proper personnel to the doctors to the transport crew. We’re proud that all of our training has paid off with a life saved – that’s what we strive for every single day.”
Mortimer agrees, “I can’t thank them enough for taking care of me that day. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here. From the first person I saw until the last, everyone was professional, friendly and genuinely concerned about me. Dynette even came and visited me at the hospital to check up on me – I really appreciated that.”
It’s important to remember that heart attack symptoms are not the same for everyone. Mortimer said that he had no chest pain or shortness of breath. He instinctively knew that something was not right and thought he may need medical care.
He also has quit smoking – for good!
“Before my wife passed away a year ago, I promised her that I would quit smoking,” said Mortimer. “I think this whole experience was her way of telling me that I was taking too long.”
Sentara Lake Ridge is an outpatient campus on the corner of Minnieville and Summit School Roads near Tackett’s Mill. The emergency room is staffed with board-certified emergency physicians and specially trained emergency nurses.