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Emory heart attack patient thanks care teams for their expertise and compassion

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Janet Christenbury

May 14, 2014, was no ordinary day for Dr. John Muse, an oral surgeon, husband and father of two. He was working in his Decatur office that Wednesday, when Wednesdays are usually his off days. Working that day may have saved his life. He called for his nurse, but this wasn't to assist with a patient. Muse realized he was having a heart attack.

After a call to 9-1-1, Muse began advanced cardiac life support while waiting for an ambulance. Moments later, the ambulance arrived and he asked to be taken to Emory University Hospital for treatment. Once in the Emory emergency department, he went into ventricular fibrillation — a heart condition where the lower chambers of the heart quiver, leaving the heart unable to pump any blood, leading to cardiac arrest. Muse's heart was shocked multiple times before he was revived.

"The team started CPR and chest compressions in the doorway of the emergency room where Dr. Muse turned blue and collapsed," says Jean Wheeler, MD, a resident in the emergency department when Muse was brought in last May. "He was essentially dead and we ended up shocking him with the defibrillator about seven times. We got to him literally the second he collapsed and that was one of the instrumental things I think in helping his outcome."

He was rushed to the cath lab, where interventional cardiologist, Kreton Mavromatis, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, and team waited for his arrival. The cath lab team is put on notice when a heart attack patient like Muse is brought in.

Mavromatis treats patients with heart ailments in the cath lab daily, but Muse's case was particularly gratifying.

"He experienced sudden cardiac death, the most feared consequence of a heart attack, but due to quick and expert action, was resuscitated," says Mavromatis. "We were then able to quickly open up the blocked artery causing his problem and prevent sudden death from happening again, as well as heart failure down the road. I think that was the thing that made his case particularly satisfying. We took a person who suddenly became as sick as anyone can ever be, and brought him back to full function."

Mavromatis and team stopped his heart attack and restored blood flow using catheters and balloons. Then they placed a stent to keep the artery open.

Muse spent five days in Emory's cardiac ICU, while his family, friends and staff waited to see what his outcome would be. They mainly worried about brain function, knowing that his heart stopped multiple times during his heart attack.

"We were worried about diminished brain capacity and whether he was going to come out the same dad we love," says Chris Muse, John Muse's son. "He couldn't speak, he couldn't tell us what his thoughts were so we were very scared and worried."

When he awoke; however, it was clear his brain function had remained intact. He reached for his wife's hand and hugged his teenage daughter. And he looked around the room at all the people pulling for him to make it though.

"Emory saved my life," says Muse. "The way that they treated me and my staff, my friends and my family, I can't say it enough. It's one thing to save someone's life. It's another thing to do it with kindness, compassion and caring."

Muse, supported by his family and staff, came back to Emory University Hospital recently to say thank you to the teams of people who cared for him last May following his heart attack. He wanted to make sure they knew just how appreciative he was.

"Saying thank you was really important to me," says Muse. "In a busy stressful environment like a hospital, I felt it was necessary to thank all of the people who slowed down and spent time with my family and me."

Just six weeks after his heart attack, Dr. John Muse and his 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, took a trip to the Grand Canyon where they hiked and rafted.
Just six weeks after his heart attack, Dr. John Muse and his 18-year-old daughter,
Elizabeth, took a trip to the Grand Canyon where they hiked and rafted.

 Muse now has a new perspective on life. He has reduced some of the stressors in his life, cutting back on evening commitments and functions with professional organizations, and spending more time focusing on his family.
Just six weeks after his heart attack, he took a trip to the Grand Canyon with his 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, where they hiked and rafted. "We've always been really close with our parents, but I think the struggles we went through at Emory made us a lot stronger," says Elizabeth Muse.
A few months after that, Muse and his adult son, Chris, took a motorcycle trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
"Following the one-year anniversary of my heart attack, I have learned to better control the stress in my life and take time to smell the roses," says Muse. "And I now truly appreciate the people around me."

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