Mike Sharkey, ER/Cardiac Services Patient

Mike Sharkey - St. Louis, MI

"You felt that the people working on you really cared...I felt very safe and secure in their hands."

A Caring ER Team Rescued Him from a Sudden Heart Attack

Mike Sharkey knows what it means to help others. He and his wife Sandy moved to St. Louis to be near their daughter and her family. Sharkey works as the director of the Office of Human Services in the area, overseeing the community food bank, among other projects. The couple is very active with their church, the Parkside Assembly of God.

On an otherwise normal Friday night on the 4th of May, Sharkey was having trouble sleeping. He was experiencing indigestion and had to get up to take antacids in the middle of the night. The next morning, it became clear that this wasn't typical acid reflux he was having. Sharkey broke out in a huge sweat, and felt pain radiating down his left arm.

Recognizing these warning signs, Sharkey woke his wife up and asked her to drive him to the ER. She wanted to call an ambulance, but Sharkey insisted on taking their own car since they lived so close to the hospital. (The ER staff later confirmed that his wife was right – it's best to call an ambulance if you suspect that you or someone else is having a heart attack.)

Fortunately, it only took about six minutes for Sharkey's wife to drive him to MyMichigan Medical Center Alma. Missing the patient entryway, they knocked on the ambulance entrance. When Sharkey's wife told the answering staff member she thought Sharkey was having a heart attack, they jumped into action.

The staff person who greeted them immediately fetched a wheel chair for Sharkey. "They were very fast and very professional," he recalls. He was immediately hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor, with healthcare providers closely checking all of his vital signs.

The attending doctor informed Sharkey that he was indeed having a myocardial infarction – a heart attack. When Sharkey asked how they knew this, the doctor pointed out a blip on his heart readout that indicated the condition.

At that point, things took a turn for the worse. "It was like someone was slowly turning the dimmer switch," Sharkey remembers. Everything went black and he coded for about thirty seconds.

During this moment of crisis, Nurse Manager Victoria Evitts, R.N., ushered Sharkey's wife out of the room. She stayed with her and provided comfort the whole time, as the rest of the team was working on reviving Sharkey. "It was harder on my wife than me," Sharkey says.

Meanwhile, the other ER doctors, nurses, and assistants did everything they could to get Sharkey's heart started again. They performed CPR and administered a defibrillator – the shock paddles that jumpstart the heart's electric pulses.

Their efforts succeeded, and Sharkey's heart resumed beating on its own. "We were very impressed with how professional they were, how well the team worked together," Sharkey said, adding that there were about eight or nine people in the room working on him. It was a large team of people, yet their actions were well-coordinated and everyone performed their roles swiftly and smoothly.

Once stabilized, the team prepped Sharkey for transfer. He was sent to MyMichigan Medical Center Midland to receive a stent to keep blood flowing to his heart muscles. The cardiac team in Midland was already waiting for him and ready to go as soon as he arrived.

Now, Sharkey is doing much better and is returning to his normal life. Currently, he is participating in cardiac rehabilitation at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma, the same place where he visited the ER a few months ago. Sharkey and his wife are very impressed with the hospital as a whole. "They monitor you very closely," he says. "I can tell a difference."

Sharkey and his wife felt such an incredible gratitude to the ER team at Alma that they wished to thank them in person. "They basically saved my life," Sharkey says. Once he had recovered enough to walk around, he and his wife returned to the medical center. Walking in through the visitor's entrance this time, they asked if anybody was in who had been working the night of Saturday, May 5th.

As it happened, the nurse manager and one of the other attending nurses were in the clinic at the time. It was a very emotional reunion. "Pretty much all four of us had tears in our eyes," Sharkey remembers. He still gets choked up remembering the experience.

Sharkey was glad to show to the ER team the difference they had made in his life. Usually, he explains, they don't get to see the results of their efforts despite the enormous positive impact they have.

Evitts says that she is very proud of her team - a sentiment that Sharkey and his wife concur with. "You really felt that the people working on you really cared; it's not just a job," he says. "I felt very safe and secure in their hands."

If you or someone you love is experiencing warning signs of a heart attack, Don't Wait and Don't Drive. Dial 911 or your local ambulance service. To learn more about MyMichigan's specialized programs in heart and vascular care, visit www.mymichigan.org/heart.