Deborah Ziech of Joliet pictured with her husband Dean Ziech. Deborah praised the care she received at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center when she recently had a STEMI heart attack.
Deborah Ziech of Joliet pictured with her husband Dean Ziech. Deborah praised the care she received at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center when she recently had a STEMI heart attack.

If you’re having a heart attack, AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet is the place you want to go.

That’s the message Deborah Ziech, 70, of Joliet, wants people to know.

"If you're having a cardiac incident, there isn't any place you'd rather be," Ziech said. "The care was impeccable, and the care was immediate. ... They saved my life; they really did."

Ziech said within 30 minutes of the EMTs placing her inside an ambulance, she was inside St. Joe’s cardiac catheter lab being treated.

In an Aug. 2 Herald-News story, Herb Buchanan, president of AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center, said that when the medical center completes its multimillion-dollar "Heart Hospital within a Hospital" capital campaign, it will be able to handle any sort of heart care short of a transplant.

A month later, Ziech, a retired nurse, was praising the heart care she received at the Joliet medical center, which she called “exceptional.”

On Aug. 27, Ziech had a STEMI heart attack. This occurs when a blood clot completely and/or persistently blocks an artery in the heart, according to the National Institute of Health, making speed especially important in treatment.

The National Institute of Health said half of any salvageable heart muscle is lost within the first hour; sudden cardiac death also can occur before a person can seek medical help.

It's important to restore blood flood to the heart as quickly as possible, taccording to the National Institute of Health.

In the weeks leading up the heart attack, Ziech, who’s had diabetes for seven years, was feeling exhausted and blamed it on being inside more because of the pandemic, even though she's an avid gardener.

Then Ziech began experiencing reflux. Since she's had reflux in the past, Ziech wasn’t immediately concerned until she began "eating Tums like candy,” she said.

Her migraines, which had gone away years ago, had become a daily occurrence. If she felt stressed, Ziech noticed an aching in her chest. A couple of days before the attack, she began feeling anxious.

“I thought it might have been something with my heart,” Ziech said. “And I attributed some of it to being 70 and being a diabetic.”

Ziech’s own father had died of a heart attack at age 44. He’d had his first at age 39. Ziech herself had a stress test and a cardiac workup four years ago, she said.

“So that was swimming in the back of my mind,” Ziech said.

The timing was ironic as Ziech’s family practice doctor had just retired. While getting ready for her first appointment, Ziech began having a terrible headache and pain in her left jaw that radiated into her eye in a piercing way.

“I went down to check my blood sugar,” Ziech said. “By the time I got to the landing, I started having a crushing pain in my chest.”

Ziech rested on the bed and told her husband, Dean, to call 911. She said medical personnel arrived five minutes later. Ziech said she actually went downstairs to wait for the EMTs so they wouldn’t struggle getting a gurney up the stairs.

"I knew I was having a heart attack," Ziech said.

Once inside the ambulance, Ziech received oxygen, nitroglycerin, baby aspirin and an EKG, Ziech said. Her pulse rate dropped to 40, she said.

Ziech said a team of people was waiting for her once she arrived at St. Joe’s.

“They took me to the elevator and right up to the cath lab,” Ziech said.

Ziech said she was sedated and she felt a heavy pressure in her chest and difficulty breathing but no pain.

“I could feel the moment the stents entered my heart,” Ziech said. “I could feel the sudden relief of pressure in my chest.”

Ziech was released a little more than 48 hours later, she said. Ziech contrasted that with the weeks of bed rest her father had after his heart attack.

She recommends people, women especially, pay close attention to the more subtle, unusual and persistent signals that they might be having a heart attack.

These symptoms include gastric reflux, back pain, headache and fatigue. Stress, too, can adversely affect the female heart, Ziech said.

Ziech also feels doctors need to pay close attention when patients don't feel well.

“This was something I was taught in nursing school,” Ziech said. “Always listen to your patient. If they tell you something is wrong, something is wrong. It may not be the obvious thing, but I think most people, women especially, are very intuitive when something is wrong. The may not have the background to know exactly what it is, but they know.”

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