Tony Johnson

Mat-Su Regional Medical Center nurse Tony Johnson shared his own experiences during the hospital’s Go Red event in February.

Tony Johnson is a heart attack survivor. He also happens to be a nurse in the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center’s emergency room. Johnson told his story during a presentation by registered nurse Katye Abeles at MSRMC’s annual Go Red event on Feb. 9.

Johnson was taking a shower when he started experiencing back pain. Within the next 10 minutes Johnson was experiencing what he described as full-blown chest pain and jaw pain. He described the pain as the typical male heart attack symptoms. Johnson emphasized that time from experiencing symptoms to receiving medical care is crucial for survival and a quick recovery. He admittedly made the wrong decision by having his wife drive him to the ER. Instead he implored the audience to call 911 to start the medical care process.

Johnson arrived at the ER within 30 minutes from when the pain began. He stated that if he would have gone through emergency medical services he would have arrived even sooner which can be critical. The ER department receives a copy of the EKG test from EMS which would help diagnose in the field. This would notify all of the doctors and prepare the Cath lab for the patient. The ER also would be prepared for the patient’s arrival. Johnson estimates that by having EMS involved and notifying the medical services required it could save as much as thirty minutes or more.

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Johnson also stated that recognizing and acknowledging the symptoms and not ignoring them is another important piece to surviving a heart attack. Four days and two stints later Johnson was back to work. When asked how he knew he was having pain related to a heart attack versus regular pain Johnson stated you just know it’s different. At first, he thought he was having a back spasm but within a few minutes he realized he was having a heart attack. The pain had progressed from his back to his shoulder then to his jaw.

“You can feel the difference and it’s a pain that you will never forget,” Johnson explained.

MSRMC has a cardiac rehab program which patients receive a special type of a care after experiencing a heart attack. The program care includes safe exercise, improved diet, controlling the patients blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. For those who smoke they offer assistance in quitting. The program also provides help with feelings of sadness or worry.

Johnson’s health numbers all checked out prior to his heart attack. Blood pressure, cholesterol were normal and he was diligent on his meds but he still had a heart attack. Johnson isn’t in the cardiac rehab program because of his work schedule but was prescribed yoga by his doctor. He’s been working with a private instructor. Heart issues can be genetic as well.

During his discussion he spoke of saving time equating to saving muscle. “Your heart is a muscle and the pain is related to the muscle dying. It’s not getting oxygen to it. When starting treatment early we can open that up which now gets that muscle the oxygen it needs and the proper blood flow. It stops the muscle from dying. Time is muscle, the longer you wait the more muscle is going to die. That thirty minutes in time saved is a lot of muscle. Early recognition, call EMS and get here fast.” Johnson advised.

Heart attack symptoms are as follows;

Chest heaviness/Pressure, fatigue, nausea, crushing chest pain, pain/pressure in center of chest, pain/ tingling/discomfort in other parts of the upper body, stomach ache, shortness of breath, burping, heart burn, sweating, cold clammy skin, racing or uneven heartbeat, feeling dizzy or light headed.


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