Paul Johnson of Tyler

Paul Johnson of Tyler awoke with a searing pain in his back. Tests at ETMC Tyler showed he had total arterial blockage that could have killed him without immediate treatment. Within 16 minutes of his arrival in the hospital he received treatment and was on the path to full recovery.

3-D image showed artery was 100% blocked

Johnson was home sleeping when he awoke about 11:30 p.m. with difficulty breathing and pain in the center of his back. “As we would find out later it was because the artery that was blocked was on the back side of my heart,” he said. His wife drove him to the ETMC South Broadway Emergency Department.

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“The person who kind of took charge of the team held me by the hand and said, ‘Mr. Johnson, you’re having a major heart attack, and we’re going to have to transport you to the main hospital.’ ”

At ETMC Tyler a 3-D image showed the artery was 100 percent blocked, creating a high risk for the artery to rupture, which would have meant sudden cardiac death. His father had died from that very cause at age 56, said Johnson, who was 58 at the time.

Sixteen minutes

But today a national “hospital door to intervention” treatment goal for heart attacks of 90 minutes is saving patients who otherwise might have been lost. The ETMC team, well ahead of that goal, began successfully treating Johnson with a medicated stent in the artery within 16 minutes of his arrival.

“We’re so fortunate to live in the greater Tyler area because we have so many opportunities to get the very best care,” Johnson said. Family members had rushed to the hospital that night, and Johnson said he appreciated the way ETMC personnel kept them informed. “The young lady who was in charge filled them in on what had happened and what the procedure took care of and everything. So within about 2 1/2 hours I was seeing all of them in Recovery.”

Johnson’s heart attack may have been brought on by stress, he said, as he was adjusting to having been laid off from a job in human resource training. A family history of cardiac disease also may have played a role.

Since his heart attack, Johnson has lost weight and begun a program of regular exercise, and he no longer needs medicine for high blood pressure. He has begun offering human resource training on a freelance basis. After checking with his doctors, he also became a firearms instructor.

Return to the ETMC Cardiovascular Institute page.