The Sentara Heart and Vascular Center saves valuable minutes for heart attack victims needing immediate help.

A race against time for heart attack patient

Marcel Huard Nv

 “I think I’m having a heart attack.” 

Those were the seven words Woodbridge resident Marcel Huard said when he arrived at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

“The next thing I knew I was in a wheelchair with about seven people around me being rushed down a hall,” says Marcel. “It was instantaneous, and it was like a TV show.”

That morning, the 56-year-old Air Force officer was just getting over a cold and, even though he didn’t feel very well, decided to venture to a local coffee shop.

“By the time I arrived, I was feeling pretty bad,” says Marcel. “I was having severe pain in my chest and down my left arm.” 

At that point, he drove himself to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. (Marcel knows now that if he feels chest pain again, he should call 9-1-1, and an ambulance should be dispatched.) 

“The type of heart attack he had is called a STEMI, which is an acronym for ST segment elevation myocardial infarction,” says Dr. Balbir Sidhu, a cardiologist at Sentara Heart and Vascular Center.

When someone has a STEMI, the coronary artery, which supplies blood to the heart, is completely blocked by a blood clot.  

Now is the time 

“Time is of the essence. We took Mr. Huard into the Cardiac Catheterization Lab and performed an interventional procedure to place a stent into the blocked artery,” Dr. Sidhu explains. “A stent is a small tube we insert into the artery to open up the blockage and allow blood to flow through to the heart. Without the proper blood flow, a heart virtually dies.” 

Before the Sentara Heart and Vascular Center opened in May 2011, patients like Marcel would have had a different experience. 

“In the past, patients experiencing STEMIs required emergent transfer to an alternate facility,” says Tricia Hill, MSN, RN, senior director of nursing. “Now, at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, it is a privilege to provide advanced life saving cardiac and vascular care for our community right here.” 

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