The only signs of Donna Matney’s heart trouble were chest and back pain with a little shortness of breath. It was barely a hint of the medical emergency it really was.
But it was enough for Donna, an experienced nurse at AdventHealth Fish Memorial, to schedule a visit with her doctor. She was glad she did.
She was referred to Ratan Ahuja, MD, a heart specialist who believed a partially blocked artery may be causing her chest pain. That meant she could be close to a heart attack, so Donna was taken to the emergency department and admitted to the hospital.
It was only the next morning, on April 16, that doctors realized how close to a heart attack she’d come.
As she underwent a stress test — during which the heart is monitored during exercise to determine whether an artery may be blocked — Donna passed out. She woke up to chest compressions, meaning her heart needed help pumping blood.
Doctors would soon learn a major blood vessel near her heart was 99% blocked. This was a medical emergency, and time was of the essence. A heart deprived of blood quickly begins to die. In the past, moving Donna to a hospital that could unclog her blood vessel would mean valuable minutes would be lost to get her the care she needed. But thanks to investments in heart care at AdventHealth Fish Memorial, Donna only had to travel down the hall. The stress test revealed that she was in crisis, but she had the best possible care at her side.
Donna was transferred to AdventHealth Fish Memorial’s catheterization laboratory and underwent a “percutaneous coronary intervention,” or PCI. The team inserted a thin, flexible tube into her wrist, maneuvering it through her blood vessels until they reached the nearly blocked area. Attached to the tube is a device called a stent,which expands like a balloon. It flattens the plaque and fat that’s blocking the artery, allowing blood to flow through.
Donna praised the coordination of the nurses, doctors, cardiovascular specialists, radiology technologists and respiratory therapists who treated her and cared for her before, during and after her procedure.
“They work so well together, and they really, really impressed me,” Donna said. Ten days later, Donna was back at work.
Donna is the 100th patient to undergo this procedure at AdventHealth Fish Memorial. Her story is an example of how teamwork and technology combine to put life-saving medicine in reach for more people. As Donna learned firsthand, teamwork is critical in the cardiac catheterization laboratory.
Teamwork in the Cath Lab
Opening up a clogged artery in minutes takes the skills of multiple professionals. The team uses a tool called fluoroscopy to provide real-time images of the patient’s body. This allows the interventional cardiologist — the team leader — to navigate the thin, flexible tube into the right position.
Meanwhile, the three-member team, trained in advanced cardiovascular care, is helping to monitor the patient and administer the correct types and doses of medication. For example, blood thinners are often given during the procedure to prevent blood clots.
This technology is not new, but bringing it to AdventHealth Fish Memorial isn’t just about convenience — it has the capacity to save lives.
Why Care Close to Home Matters
Because one of Donna’s main blood vessels was nearly entirely blocked, her heart wasn’t getting enough oxygen. It was critical for her health that doctors open up her blood vessel quickly.
Lowering treatment time below 90 minutes saves heart muscle and prevents long-term, irreversible damage, according to the American College of Cardiology.
AdventHealth Fish Memorial couldn’t offer this capability without its catheterization lab. It’s basically an imaging room — the team needs to see inside the body during the procedure — and a place for heart procedures, rolled into one.
Though some people assume they need to travel to a larger hospital to get top-tier care, that’s not true, Donna says.
“I got the best care I could have gotten right here,” she said.
We invite you to learn more about how we bring together technology and team-based care to put whole-person health within closer reach for everyone in the West Volusia County community.