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Doctor with heart attack saved by Emory University Hospital

After Emory physician Charles Hatcher Jr., MD, performed Georgia’s first double and triple valve replacements in the 1960’s and its first coronary bypass surgery in 1970, Emory University Hospital quickly became one of the nation’s top hospitals in cardiology. Fueled by private philanthropy, heart specialists at Emory continue to perform lifesaving treatments, and patients in Georgia and the Southeast benefit from their expertise.

Physician John Muse is one of those patients. When he began having chest pains at his downtown Decatur office, he asked to be taken to Emory University Hospital. Even though he was closer to another emergency department, the oral surgeon requested care at Emory. By the time he arrived at the hospital, Muse was in full cardiac arrest.

Emory’s emergency department crash team only had minutes to revive him. Jean Wheeler, MD, was the resident on duty when Muse arrived. 

“The team started CPR and chest compressions in the doorway of the emergency room where Dr. Muse turned blue and collapsed,” said Wheeler. “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.”

Once stabilized, a second team led by interventional cardiologist, Kreton Mavromatis, MD, employed a minimally invasive angioplasty procedure to restore the flow of oxygen to his heart. An associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine, Mavromatis treats patients with heart ailments in Emory University Hospital’s catheterization 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,” said 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.”

Muse spent five days in Emory’s cardiac intensive care unit, while his family, friends and staff hoped for a positive outcome. They worried about the possibility of diminished brain function, knowing that his heart stopped several times during the heart attack.

When he awoke, it was clear his brain function had remained intact. Muse reached for his wife’s hand, hugged his teenage daughter, and looked around the room at all the people pulling for him to make it through.

His wife, Carey, recalls that moment: “When he opened his eyes and grabbed my hand, I thought, ‘He is all there; I can see it.’ ”

Following his recovery, Muse, supported by his family and staff, returned to Emory University Hospital to thank the teams of people who cared for him. He wanted to make sure they knew just how appreciative he was.

“Emory saved my life,” Muse said. “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.”

Today Muse has a new perspective on life. To reduce stress, he has cut back on evening commitments and functions with professional organizations and spends 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. 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,” said Muse. It’s a prescription this doctor intends to follow.

To support lifesaving treatments and services at Emory Healthcare, contact Steven Wagner, senior director of development, at or 404.727.9110.

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