Camden resident Bill Joyner, 53, doesn’t remember his short time at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center on a spring day, the time about an hour after he had a heart attack.
His wife Rachel does, though.
“The doctor came out and told me, ‘He has a pulse; he is breathing,’” says Rachel. “I repeated those words to stay calm. I later used them to comfort our younger son. She knew how to talk with me.”
Dr. Samantha Furia, who has worked at Sentara Albemarle for five years, remembers talking with Rachel and helping Bill.
“I could just see the look in her eyes,” says Dr. Furia. “She was terrified. As I shared that Mr. Joyner had a pulse, her shoulders relaxed. I reassured her that we were doing everything we could.”
Dr. Furia and her team had conducted an EKG after placing Bill on life support. They saw that he had suffered a STEMI, a type of heart attack caused by a blood clot. Dr. Furia immediately ordered a clot-busting drug and ensured that Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance and the Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital Cath Lab were called and prepared to help.
Quick thinking earlier that day
As a Virginia Beach firefighter for 25 years, Bill ate well and worked out. So that spring afternoon when he felt a stitch in his back after running with Rachel, he didn’t worry. He would just take an aspirin.
“When Rachel saw me take one, she wanted to call 9-1-1,” shares Bill. “I didn’t want to, but I agreed to go to Sentara.”
On the way, Bill suffered a heart attack. Rachel, a former volunteer emergency medical technician, pulled into a parking lot, called 9-1-1 and performed CPR. A woman stopped to assist, and the police, fire department and ambulance soon arrived.
“The fire department used the automated external defibrillator, shocking me three times,” Bill says. “The ambulance crew shocked me three more times and intubated me and got me to Sentara Albemarle.”
Fast and friendly care
After the staff’s quick help at Sentara Albemarle, Bill was rushed by Nightingale to the catheterization laboratory at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Dr. Deepak Talreja inserted two stents and implanted an internal heart pump.
Bill’s heart struggled at first. He was kept in a coma as a ventilator helped him breath.
“On the sixth day, I was extubated and taken off the ventilator,” the firefighter explains. His wife, four children and fellow firefighters celebrated.
"The nurses did, too,” says Bill. “They developed a personal relationship with us. They genuinely cared about my family and friends and did everything they could for us.”
Dr. Talreja and the staff at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital Cardiac Lab were equally helpful and encouraging.
“Dr. Talreja said I’d run again in three months,” Bill says. “The Cardiac Lab staff monitored me as I worked out, and I made progress. I did even better than my doctor thought: I was jogging in six weeks.”