When Time is Muscle
May 18, 2023
September 6, 2022, started as just another day for 26-year-old Sierra Garrett—besides the fact she was 32 weeks pregnant and dealing with an asymptomatic case of COVID-19—until she abruptly got an unbearable burning sensation in her chest followed by a bout of nausea. “It just came on really fast,” said Garrett, a resident of Graves County.
After a short trip to the Jackson Purchase Medical Center (JPMC) emergency room and an immediate electrocardiogram, or EKG, Sierra quickly learned she was having a heart attack. “They came in and told me I was having a heart attack, and then they put me on the ambulance to go to Paducah.”
Dr. Louis Forte, medical director of the JPMC ER and the attending physician on September 6, knew time was of the essence after interpreting Garrett’s EKG. “Time was indeed muscle,” said Forte. The ER staff started emergency medicine and arranged an immediate transfer for cardiac intervention.
“Ms. Garrett presented to our ER at 12:13 p.m. and was transferred at 12:41 p.m.,” said Della Thurston, director of the JPMC Emergency Department. “Our goal is from the time the patient arrives to the time they leave our ER door to be no longer than 30 minutes. Ms. Garrett was out in 28.”
“[The staff] were doing everything they could while I was there,” said Garrett. “Everybody was just running around getting the stuff they needed. I wasn’t there long, honestly.”
JPMC is an American College of Cardiology accredited Chest Pain Center, promoted to version 7 the month prior to Garrett’s visit based on rigorous onsite evaluation of the team’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack. “We do this for Sierra Garrett and all the other members of our community that present with chest pain,” said Thurston.
Recovering from her heart attack and haven given birth to her healthy baby girl, Piper, in an emergency c-section, Sierra returned to JPMC in December 2022 to begin cardiac rehabilitation.
“It is important for cardiac patients to participate in a rehab program for multiple reasons including gaining strength, building stamina and making social connections,” said Belinda Adkison, Garrett’s cardiac rehab nurse. “After a life changing event it is helpful to be with others that have experienced a similar situation. It is an important part of supporting the patient’s mental health in addition to their physical wellbeing.”
“My favorite part about cardiac rehab is talking with people who have also had heart surgery and seeing Belinda. She’s truly great,” said Garrett.
Garrett and Adkison agree that her rehabilitation is going really well. “As her nurse, I have been very pleased with the progress she has made,” said Adkison. “She has been able to increase her endurance for everyday activities that result in an overall improvement in her quality of life. On a personal level, Sierra has been inspirational. She has overcome many obstacles to make the progress she has.”
Cardiac rehabilitation at JPMC also includes education on a cardiac-friendly diet. “We teach our patients what foods and proportions are best suited for this,” said Adkison. “All these factors and continued exercise after leaving the program are important to the patient’s overall health throughout the rest of their life.”
With no family history of heart disease, a heart attack at 26 was far from expected for Garrett. “My heart attack was just like spontaneous,” she shared. Garrett encourages others who are experiencing unexplained symptoms to seek care. “Always seek medical help if you feel like something is wrong. Even if it feels like something small, it’s best to be seen.”
Some heart attacks happen very quickly, while others start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack and responding quickly could help save a life—even your own. JPMC can provide quality care during cardiac emergencies and throughout your recovery.