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Cardiac arrest warning: 'If he hadn't acted quickly, he wouldn't be here today'

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 30, 2021

CARMEL — It was a matter of life and death for one Carmel man: to ignore his symptoms or listen to his body and drive to the hospital. His doctor says, if he hadn’t acted quickly, he might not be here today.

“Had he waited 20 more minutes on the couch at home, he wouldn't have made it,” said Dr. Greg Mazanek, Ascension St. Vincent cardiologist and chief medical officer.

In March, Bob Donahue went on a run. A semi-retired stagehand, he had largely been out of work during the pandemic and gotten out of the habit of running. But when he returned from that run, he says something wasn’t feeling right. He felt heavy pressure in his chest.

“It was just a deep pain and very persistent,” Donahue said. “It was just something I never felt before.”

So he and his wife drove to Ascension St. Vincent hospital. After just minutes of being there, his heart stopped and Donahue collapsed, going into full cardiac arrest.

“About that time it was lights out,” said Donahue. “I woke up a day later and in a different place.”

“When we look back over the last year, especially during Covid lockdown, people stayed at home with a heart attack,” said Dr. Mazanek.

Dr. Mazanek, who took care of Donahue, says a lot of people with cardiac arrest die before they make it to the hospital, and often put off seeking care.

“Statistically, there were a lot of excess deaths for people staying home and not getting the care that they need for their regular old heart attack or regular old stroke,” he said.

But thankfully Donahue didn’t. After 12 weeks of cardio therapy, he is already back to running.

“It feels pretty good,” Donahue said. “I try to run three miles every day.”

Over the Fourth of July, he even ran a 10K race, which is 6.2 miles. He says he's grateful for everyone that helped him that day.

“To have a near death experience like that and to be given back your life and a full measure is a blessing that most people don’t get,” said Donahue.

He encourages anyone who feels like something might not be right, “go see somebody that knows more than you do about what’s going on. If it’s indigestion, they’ll give you some Pepto-Bismol, and if it’s not they’ll save your life.”

The Ascension St. Vincent Heart Center was awarded the highest overall ranking by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Star program. The ranking recognizes the high-quality, patient-centered care that’s delivered at the hospital every day.