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Heart Patient Heeded Warning Signs

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Paying attention paid off

Wayne Zimmerman, Merrill Wayne Zimmerman, Merrill

​Wayne Zimmerman didn't think twice about the unusual, dull pain in his left upper chest and shoulder.

Even when it happened a second time two weeks later and a third time within weeks of first noticing it, the recurring sensation only struck him as odd.

It wasn't until the fourth episode two days later that he decided to seek care.

Coronary surgery

He's lucky he did, because two days later he was having six-bypass coronary surgery.

"It wasn't agonizing but the fact that it occurred back to back was what made me go to the hospital," said Zimmerman, who 58 at the time.

Initial tests performed at Ministry Good Samaritan Hospital were reviewed by Rohit Srivastava, M.D.​, a Marshfield Clinic cardiologist who sees patients in Merrill, Wausau and Weston.

Based on the initial tests, Dr. Srivastava had Zimmerman transferred the same day to Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital in Weston, where he conducted a cardiac catheterization.

Serious business

"He told me I had several blockages and that I would need to have six bypasses. It was really a shock," said Zimmerman, executive director of the Housing Authority of Merrill.

"I clearly got the impression it was serious business that needed immediate attention." It was indeed.

Chong Chin Lee, M.D., a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon at Marshfield Clinic Weston Center, chose not to wait until Monday.

He performed a seven-hour surgery on Zimmerman on a Saturday.

"He had severe cardiovascular disease," Dr. Srivastava said. "One of his arteries was completely blocked, and there were too many blockages to consider a balloon angioplasty."

Zimmerman could have easily had a major heart attack and become one more statistic.

Fortunately the outcome was the opposite as Zimmerman has made a complete recovery and is back to doing all his favorite activities, with duck hunting and skiing on the top of the list.

He feels he is a lucky man and is thankful to the many people who cared for him.

Warning signs

Dr. Srivastava reminds everyone to seek emergency care if you have any of these warning signs of a possible heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, a shoulder, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Like men, women most commonly have chest pain or discomfort as a heart attack symptom.

But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, back pain or jaw pain.

If you experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately.