Lucky to be Alive Heart Attack Survivor Shares Lessons Learned

Linda, Paul & Carra Neugebauer


By P.J. Neugebauer

I am 53 years of age. I have low-blood pressure. I was walking 15 miles a week. I receive annual stress tests. But due to a family predisposition, I had a severe heart-attack despite no prior warning signs and no classical symptoms.

It started at 7:00 in the morning with what I thought must simply be heartburn and indigestion. I am not prone to heartburn and indigestion but I did not have any pain shooting down my left arm or up my jaw. So why would I think it was anything else?

I ended-up taking some antacids and some aspirin – regular aspirin not ibuprofen – to elevate the pain and discomfort I was feeling. I kept thinking I could push through the pain as it steadily got worse throughout the day. But by 10:30 at night, I was in so much pain that it felt as if there was a massive brick on my chest and two guys were on either side of me, going at it with sledgehammers. There was a moment when the pain was so intense that I thought of giving up, but instead, I decided to fight. To fight for my life or there wouldn’t be a tomorrow.

Fortunately, my daughter was at home and she called 911. The EMT’s arrived prepared, knowledgeable and administered nitroglycerine. They were able to call ahead to the hospital so that the ER was ready for me when I arrived. I had two major blockages of 70 percent and 80 percent that the doctors were able to stent without open-heart surgery.

As it turns out, the doctors said, “Thank God you took that aspirin. It most likely saved your life.” But the benefit of aspirin therapy, for those of us with a family pre-disposition for heart attacks, isn’t the only thing I learned.

I also learned that I should have gone in much sooner. When the pain wasn’t subsiding, I should never have kept trying to man-up and push through. I should have called for help. If I had, I would have done less damage and my recovery would have been much quicker. Just as we know, if you see something -say something, it also holds true that if you feel something – do something. Don’t think, “I can take it.” Don’t wait. Call. Get help.

Also, I learned it was the correct choice was to call 911 rather than have my daughter drive me to the ER. The EMT’s got there faster and were able to help me and have the ER ready for me. This time-saving ended-up being crucial. I had waited so long to get help that I do not believe I would have made it if it had not been for the tremendous efforts of the first responders who came to my aid when my daughter called.

Now, while I am back to playing golf, I am also watching salt intake and taking an aspirin along with my other meds every day. I have even become a volunteer at the ER at UPMC Passavant to give back for the wonderful job they did in saving my life.

And every month, I give my daughter a package of Life Savers® to honor her for her actions and being with me.

It is my hope that by sharing the lessons that I have learned, I will be able to reach out and help someone in need to make the right decisions in their own care.  I also want to thank my lovely and wonderful wife for all she has done and continues to do for me.