Robyn’s Story: The Right Heart Care At the Right Time

Robyn Pierce did all the right things. As a nurse at Atrium Medical Center, she understood the value of making healthy lifestyle choices and made them part of her daily habits. She never drank. She never smoked. And she exercised regularly, which is what made her sudden symptoms seem so unusual in September 2016.

“I was going to the gym every day with my daughter, where we would walk on the treadmill,” Robyn said. “One day, I became overwhelmed with fatigue and told her I needed to stop. I simply attributed everything to my age, because I was 67.”

Resting might have helped temporarily, but Robyn felt fatigued the next day.

She also felt an unusual tugging pain in her left shoulder and upper chest. She thought she had pulled a muscle and took a pain reliever before bed that night. However, she still had the pain the next morning and drove to the store for more medicine.

“Right before I pulled into the lot it hit me that I didn’t know where I was,” Robyn said. “I stopped the car, turned around, immediately came home, and called my daughter to ask if she could take me to the emergency room at Atrium Medical Center. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

The emergency department staff immediately took her blood pressure and administered an EKG despite her insistence that she was suffering from a pulled muscle.

Her blood pressure was extremely high, so her doctors admitted her for further testing and observation. She was given nitroglycerin to alleviate the increasing pain in her chest.

“At Atrium, we carefully assign chest pain scores to patients that trigger specific protocols,” said John Miller, MD, a Premier Health cardiothoracic surgeon. “If necessary, some may be admitted to receive a regimented process that evaluates, reassesses, and checks a series of lab tests to determine if the patient is at higher risk for something more serious.”

Processes such as these play a key role in Atrium being designated as an Accredited Chest Pain Center through the American College of Cardiology.

Robyn credits these established processes for helping to save her life. A cardiac catheterization revealed that, though she had not had a heart attack, the arteries of her heart had four blockages, requiring Dr. Miller to perform cardiac bypass surgery.

The procedure was a success, and Robyn suffered no significant heart damage. She returned to work eight weeks after recovery. 

The right care, at the right time, may reduce or prevent permanent heart damage from a heart attack or other conditions. But Dr. Miller says, “We've all heard of scenarios where someone having chest pain has an emergency after getting sent home from the emergency room because their pain fades and EKG and lab work don’t look that bad.

“Thankfully, Atrium’s accredited processes help us avoid running a greater risk of encountering situations like those.”

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Every moment of your life depends on a strong, healthy heart. The Premier Health cardiology and vascular services team is here to help you, each beat of the way, with prevention, diagnostic, treatment, and rehabilitation services in our hospitals, outpatient centers, and medical offices across Southwest Ohio.