Valley man shares story of heart attack and how defibrillator saved his life

A Valley man is sharing his story about chest pain and having a heart attack, in the hopes that others experiencing the same thing don't waste time getting to the hospital.
 
Chest pain happens to a lot of people. Sometimes you think it's just gas or heartburn so you take some antacids and call it good. That may work for some people, but other times the problem is much worse.
 
That was the case with Thom Miller, 65, from North Phoenix. He had his first heart attack in 1995.  

He died three times during another cardiac event five years later, and after that doctors put in a pacemaker defibrillator.

Miller didn't think the pacemaker was doing anything, until the day after Thanksgiving.  
 
"It just sat there in my chest," he says. "Now I know it has a purpose."
 
Miller woke up around 3:30 a.m. with what he thought was indigestion. After all, he had just finished a big Thanksgiving dinner the night before.  
 
"What would any adult male think?" he said. "Acid reflux? GERD? Fix it and go back to sleep, and that's what I planned to do."
 
But that same morning, the defibrillator shocked his heart to slow down its beat. Miller described the feeling as a big "boom." 
 
"It goes from your toes to your scalp, to your fingertips," he said. "You feel it all through your system."
 
His wife Mary Ann rushed him to Scottsdale Healthcare. Before the operation doctors say his arteries were clogged. One of them 100 percent blocked.  
 
Miller's cardiologist, Dr. Alan Tenaglia, said when he got to the hospital he was having a heart attack.
 
"He was quickly brought here to the cardiac cath lab where the occluded artery was opened with a balloon and a metal stent was placed to keep the artery open," Tenaglia said.
 
That operation saved Thom's life.  
 
The hospital is one of the best at the procedure. In fact it just won an excellence award for how quickly and efficiently it's performed.  
 
It's called "Door to Balloon" time or DTB.  
 
National guidelines target a time of 90 minutes or less from when a person comes into the ER to when they receive the balloon angioplasty. Scottsdale Healthcare improved its performance above the national target for 100 percent of patients during the past 16 months.
 
Thom Miller just hopes others, especially those without pacemakers, do not ignore the warning signs.
 
"If you're having that acid reflux thing, and that's all you think it is, don't think, go," he says.
 
Tenaglia says heart attack symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain and feeling faint.
 
But anytime you're unsure of anything, it's best to call 911 and get to the hospital right away. 
 
Print this article Back to Top

Comments