Record-breaking Door-to-Balloon Time at Ingalls Saves Park Forest Man's Life

Every second counts during a heart attack, when doctors race the clock to perform angioplasty, a lifesaving treatment for the most serious types of heart attack.

The term to describe this heroic effort is "door-to-balloon" time, and it refers to the time it takes from the patient arriving at the hospital until his or her blood flow has been restored with a balloon-tipped catheter.

The American College of Cardiology standard is 90 minutes or less, but doctors at Ingalls Memorial Hospital saved a whopping 30 minutes—even including an ambulance ride.

When 67-year-old Jerry Wathen of Park Forest arrived at the Flossmoor Urgent Aid Center Dec. 3, he was experiencing discomfort in his neck and back.

"I felt an ache across the back of my neck and shoulders, and I thought it was arthritis," he explained.

"I went to work, and when my co-worker saw me that morning, she insisted on taking me to Ingalls in Flossmoor."

Once he arrived, staff sprang into immediate action and performed an electrocardiogram that showed a very serious kind of heart attack called a STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction).

Jerry needed an angioplasty, which required a transfer to Ingalls Memorial Hospital. Fortunately, Ingalls has its own ambulance service available at each of its three Urgent Aid Centers.

Within minutes, Jerry was in the ambulance and en route to the Emergency Department at Ingalls Memorial Hospital, where he was met by cardiologist Imtiaz Hamid, M.D., who confirmed the initial STEMI diagnosis.

"A heart attack never crossed my mind," Jerry added. "I really thought the pain was from arthritis."

Jerry was then whisked to the hospital's cardiac catheterization laboratory where interventional cardiologist Abed Dehnee, M.D., performed a lifesaving angioplasty to re-open the 100-percent blocked left anterior descending artery (LAD)—commonly known as the "widow-maker"—and implanted a drug-eluting stent to keep the artery open.

"Time is of the essence when a patient experiences a STEMI," Dr. Dehnee explained. "If the artery is completely occluded, it can cause a massive myocardial infarction and lead to sudden death."

Jerry arrived at Ingalls Urgent Aid in Flossmoor at 8:51 a.m., and his stent was in place and blood flow restored just one hour later at 9:51 a.m.

"Clinical studies have shown that the best outcomes occur when the patient is treated in 90 minutes or less," Dr. Dehnee added. "Re-opening a blocked artery within this window of time decreases the likelihood of heart damage and future complications."

Because of the rapid care he received, Jerry sustained no heart damage and was released within a day or two.

"His prognosis is very good," Dr. Dehnee added. "I always thought I was in great health," Jerry said. "I'm grateful for the wake-up call."

If you or someone you know is at risk for heart disease, visit and click on HeartAware to take Ingalls' free online heart and vascular risk assessment. The assessment takes about 10 minutes to complete and provides important information about your personal risk factors.

Heart & Vascular Aware

Ingalls Expands Online Heart Risk Assessment

Obesity, diabetes and peripheral artery disease (PAD) are all risk factors for heart disease. In fact, research has shown a strong connection between PAD at an early age and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

That's why Ingalls has now expanded its online risk assessment HeartAware to include questions about these important risk factors.

The new Heart & Vascular Aware allows people to assess their current cardiovascular health and identify those medical or lifestyle conditions that may lead to the development of the disease.

"More than 79 million Americans have cardiovascular disease and don't even know it," explains Sabrina Akrami, D.O., cardiologist on staff at Ingalls. "But unlike some diseases, cardiovascular disease can largely be predicted and prevented."

If the screening shows you are at heightened risk, you don't have to take the next steps alone. Ingalls offers a free phone consultation with a cardiovascular nurse navigator and additional free testing, including measurements of blood pressure, height, weight, waist circumference, and a fasting lipid and glucose blood test at the Ingalls location of your choice.

And for individuals at higher risk for PAD, Ingalls offers a free ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, which measures blood pressure in the ankles and compares it to that of the arms.

"This painless test is 99% effective in detecting PAD," Dr. Akrami said.

Visit and take the online risk assessment today; it could be the first step toward preventing heart disease. By completing the screening, you could also win a prize!

For more information about cardiovascular services at Ingalls or for a referral to a heart specialist, call Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273).

Success Stories
  • Title

    Inspirational stories of courage and hope

Progress Magazine