Theresa Engbersen expected a fun weekend with her husband, Norman Greenleaf, when they booked into a Virginia Beach campground and brought their motorcycles. Unfortunately, they only got to enjoy one ride on their bikes before Norman started experiencing pain in his chest and left arm.
“It had happened to him three times before,” Theresa says. “He had a stress test earlier and it didn’t show anything wrong.”
But Theresa, a nurse at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, knew to still take action.
Soon, an emergency crew arrived and started transporting Norman, 55, to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
“It all happened in 20 minutes,” says Theresa. “Norman’s a recently retired medic-firefighter with 36 years of service, so he knew by looking at the monitor that he was having a STEMI, (a ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, a type of heart attack).”
Norman was given a clot buster as a precaution. Dr. John Griffin and his team completed a cardiac catheterization.
“They went in and looked for a blockage,” Theresa remembers being told. “Dr. Griffin said there was only a ‘hazy’ area. He thought maybe vessels in one area had died but nothing was showing. He didn’t know what caused the pain.”
More tests followed – a PVL (ultrasound of the lower extremities), an echocardiogram, a chest CT, a transesophogeal echogram.
“Dr. Griffin deduced that Norman was experiencing vasospasms,” Theresa says, “where the blood vessels around the heart spasm and block blood flow.”
From caregiver to receiver
Theresa wasn’t used to being in a hospital as a family member instead of a nurse. She quickly adjusted, thanks to the nurses she met.
“They were excellent,” she says. “They were thorough in assessing Norman’s pain and following up. I found them to be so personable and they talked with me to make sure I had everything I needed, too. Whenever we had concerns or questions, the nursing staff was right there to assist.”
The couple found the same with Dr. Griffin.
“He has been relentless in trying to pinpoint what happened to Norman,” Theresa says.
Once back home, she helped Norman make lifestyle changes, encouraging him to eat well and exercise more.
“We’ll hopefully improve our health and avoid any future encounters,” she says. “This was an experience we would rather not repeat. Sentara’s staff's care coordination has given us the tools to succeed. We got a complete package with discharge instructions. Every person is really taken care of individually.”