Miracle Heart Attack Patient Has a Message for Other Stubborn Men

Author: Sherry Farney

August 31, 2023, started out as a normal day for 41-year-old Fenton resident Mike MacDonald, but it certainly did not end that way.

“That morning, I dropped my youngest daughter off at kindergarten and stopped by my mother-in-law’s house to discuss something,” said Mike. “I didn’t quite feel right, and suddenly I had crippling pain like a gorilla was beating on my chest, it toppled me over. I texted my wife that I was having chest pains while my mother-in-law drove me to the McLaren Fenton emergency department. I remember getting hooked up to some medical equipment and asking, ‘Am I going to be alright?’ I have no memory of anything that happened for a week afterward.”

At the Fenton ED Mike went from being stable to a full cardiac arrest. He was having a massive heart attack. It was all hands on deck as every clinician in the ER helped at some point for more than an hour to both get and keep Mike stabilized, multiple times.

“Mike never stopped showing signs of life, so our team never gave up on him,” said R. Garrett Hanzel, DO, board-certified emergency room physician. “I felt like we gave Mike the best chance possible, but he was still fighting an uphill battle. I remember telling his mother-in-law I didn’t think he was going to make it.”

He finally stabilized enough for a cardiac team alert to be called into McLaren Flint, and Mike was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The cardiac team alert prompted a specialized group of caregivers to wait for Mike’s arrival. A cath lab was also ready and waiting for what was yet to be discovered regarding his failing heart. Hameem Changezi, MD, an interventional cardiologist, led the team that day. As everyone was prepping Mike for a heart catheterization, his heart stopped beating again and this group of caregivers also got it going once more. He then underwent emergency stent placement to his left anterior descending artery (LAD) which was 100 percent blocked. Some people are more familiar with the LAD as the “widow-maker.”

“It’s always rewarding for the entire team to see a patient pull through any heart attack let alone a cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Changezi. “It takes everyone’s expertise, dedication, efficiency, and professionalism to provide the best care to our patients.”

Along with placing two stents to open the completely blocked artery, Dr. Changezi inserted a temporary device called an intra-aortic balloon pump into Mike’s aortic valve to help pump his heart. After two days Mike was already improving enough for Dr. Changezi to remove it.

Ironically, Mike was active right up until his massive heart attack. He had been playing hockey just three weeks prior and walking miles around Cedar Point amusement park with his kids multiple weekends that month. He thought he was okay, but in hindsight there were signs.

“Now that I’m home recovering, I realize I did have an odd cough and I was retaining water,” said Mike. “I was also one of those stubborn kinds of guys who wasn’t getting regular checkups or going to the doctor even if I was extremely sick.”

Mike will soon have his first follow-up visit with Dr. Changezi to talk about what is next in his continued recovery. He’s likely going to hear about leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes time in cardiac rehab where he’ll learn about different medications he may need to continue taking, healthy eating, and exercise.

While he can’t wait to get back to work, the realization that he is a miracle patient is still sinking in.

“It’s really hard to put into words,” said Mike. “When I look at my wife and my kids, I know I owe everything to the staff in Fenton, everyone at the hospital who was part of my emergency procedure, and the caregivers who nursed me back to being well enough to come home. So many people put a lot of work into saving my life, it’s mind-boggling.”

As someone who’s used to being very busy, Mike’s learning to take things day by day and appreciate the small things.

“Listen to your body, especially men,” Mike added. “Be on the safe side instead of the sorry side.”

To learn more about McLaren Flint’s comprehensive cardiac services, visit mclaren.org/flintheart.