Westford's Cindy Flohr doesn't smoke, isn't overweight, and has normal cholesterol levels. At age 61, she'd never been to the hospital other than for routine checkups. She had no reason to think she might be on the verge of having a heart attack.
She woke up on February 10, Ash Wednesday, feeling fine, so she went to the church to help prepare for that day's services. As the day went on, she began to feel tired, and then felt tightness in her chest that started to radiate into her arms.
"The talk about that feeling of an elephant sitting on your chest," Flohr said. "It's true."
After discussing it with a friend at the church, she decided to call 911. The Westford Fire Paramedics told her they were taking her to the hospital best equipped to handle her condition. Then they called Lowell General Hospital to activate the hospital's STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction) protocols.
When Flohr arrived, cardiologist Richard Birkhead, MD, FACC met her at the door and told her she was headed to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. Within 15 minutes Birkhead's colleague in the Heart and Vascular Center, Omar Ali, MD, FACC was working to re-open a 100 percent blockage of her left anterior descending artery. He then inserted a drug eluting stent that keeps the artery open and helps prevent scar tissue from re-narrowing the blood vessel. Almost immediately, she felt the pressure in her chest go away.
Flohr's procedure was successful, and she was out of the hospital in less than three days. A week later, she was getting cardiac rehabilitation at Lowell General Saints campus. She is back on her feet and enjoying her second chance at life.
Honestly, I was never frightened at all," Flohr said. "The doctors and nurses were all very calm, and told me everything that was going on. I was so impressed with Dr. Ali for taking time to explain what happened the whole time I was in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab."
Her advice to other patients suffering from chest pain?
"First, don't wait — make the call," Flohr said. "And I've told everyone I know — go to Lowell General. I'm so grateful to get such expert care close to home — it saved my life."