“I’m able to do everything that I love with the ones I love.”

Action and advancements: Making life better after a heart attack

Hr Charles Southall

Charles Southall knows the classic signs of a heart attack—pain or numbness in the chest or arms, shortness of breath, nausea. But what he felt after doing yard work one fall day didn’t fit the telltale clues.

“I had a dull ache between my shoulder blades,” says Charles, 48.

When the pain persisted for hours, Charles went to Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton. An EKG confirmed he was having a heart attack.

Technology and the team

Sentara CarePlex Hospital is one of a growing number of medical centers that sends EKG results to a doctor’s cellphone to speed diagnosis.

“I confirmed Charles’ heart attack via phone, and our cardiovascular team immediately began life-saving procedures,” says Dr. Allen Ciuffo.

Charles was up minutes after a half-hour, transradial surgery, a procedure that involves inserting a long, thin tube into the body through the wrist. Sentara introduced Hampton Roads to this surgery 10 years ago. The recovery period could have been much longer with a more invasive, traditional approach that is still often used: Patients who undergo cardiac catheterization through an artery in the groin must instead lie flat for up to six hours afterwards.

Charles went home the next day and was back to work two weeks later.

Staying healthy

As he returned to his daily routine, Charles also started a cardiac rehabilitation program at Sentara Therapy Center-CarePlex. He participated in supervised exercise three times a week and received nutrition counseling.

“Before my heart attack, my lunch was two chili dogs and a bag of chips,” Charles confesses. “Today I eat salads, chicken and fish. I go for four-mile walks with my daughter. I’ve lost 45 pounds and feel healthier than I did in my thirties. The cardiac rehab team has given me confidence to live every day without constantly worrying about another heart attack. I’m able to do everything that I love with the ones I love.”

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