A Heart to Heal


Steve Johnson is an active man. He exercises at least 4 days a week at SoldierFit and is an avid runner. He would be what most would define as a pinnacle of health but for more than a week Steve had a constant pressure in his chest one that he thought it was indigestion, he shared. On October 13, he put on his running shoes and went out for a run. After running a while, he became very aware that the pressure in his chest was intensifying and his chest appeared odd, as if collapsing. He immediately turned around for home and drove himself to the hospital, talking to his wife on the phone assuring her it was probably just heartburn.

When Steve arrived at the emergency room doors the security guard greeted him. Steve explained his chest pressure and without pause, the guard instantly stepped into action and took him directly to the triage nurse at registration. The emergency department staff whisked into action and Steve was taken to an exam room. Steve remarked that the nurses, doctors, nursing assistants and technicians all explained every step, every procedure and answered every question he had. The staff gave him an indigestion “cocktail” in case the discomfort was just heartburn but unfortunately, that was not the case. “The entire team was wonderful, professional, concerned and stayed with me to answer every question.” Steve explained.

Steve went through the full work-up –chest x-ray, EKG, MRI, blood tests and more yet despite the pressure, which Steve shared wasn’t horribly painful, the results came back within normal ranges. With no definitive diagnosis and the constant pressure remaining, Steve was taken to the clinical observation unit of the hospital to be observed overnight. Steve shared how outstanding his medical team was, “every staff member went out of their way to make me comfortable.”

While on the clinical observation unit, Dr. El-Sherif cared for Steve. Steve was happy to see Dr. El-Sherif again as he had provided him with a stress test a few years before. A new stress test was scheduled to see the heart’s ability to respond to external stress (exercise) in a clinical environment. When Steve went for the test, he ran without issue, until Dr. Amagashi increased the speed of the treadmill slightly. Immediately, Steve’s chest collapsed. Dr. Amagashi immediately recommended a catheterization, which is a procedure, where a thin tube is inserted into an artery and threaded through the blood vessels.

The catheterization team was waiting for Steve and he was once again whisked away through hospital doors and corridors. The catheterization team quickly performed the procedure and determined that Steve had a 98.7% blockage in one of his arteries. The team placed a stent (a small metal mesh tube inside of the artery to increase blood flow) and immediately, the pressure in Steve’s chest was released. Steve went to recovery after surgery.

After recovery, Steve was moved to the intermediate care or ‘step down’ unit of the hospital. He encountered many Meritus Health team members, including Serena, a registered nurse whom he instantly felt comfortable. Steve chuckled, “She joked that she was Serena Williams and I joked I was Brad Pitt”. The following day, the attending physician came and spoke with Steve regarding his discharge instructions. Steve and his wife were very appreciative that the physician was so clear and concise with the discharge instructions and Steve left the hospital knowing how to manage his care at home.

Steve explained that at his follow up visit with Dr. Amegashie it was explained to him that if he would have had a heart attack due to the blockage, it is not likely he would have survived. To say that Steve is grateful for the help and healing is an understatement- he shared his incredible gratitude for the entire experience, the Meritus Health family and our community’s hospital, right here at home.