Man has 100 percent blockage, heart attack, and survives after procedure at WellSpan

EPHRATA, Pa. (WHTM) – A Lancaster County man had a 100 percent blockage in one of his arteries, suffered a heart attack, and lived to tell his story. Jim Erickson didn’t realize he was having a heart attack.

About 800,000 Americans die each year due to cardiovascular disease, according to the American College of Cardiology.

“We actually have two trucks,” Erickson said as he stood inside one of his food trucks.

Erickson’s livelihood is on that truck, but his living and life almost came to an end last July as he mowed his lawn on a hot summer day.

“I got halfway through the yard, and I was hotter than I normally would be in the sun. I just didn’t feel right,” Erickson said. “I came inside, and it’s like my cats knew something was wrong. I tried to go outside and finish the yard. Then I felt anxious and had pain down my arm.”

His wife started driving him to the hospital, but she turned around when he started feeling better.

“As we pulled in the driveway, I looked at her, and I said to her, ‘You’re going to get really upset with me, but I really do need to go.’ I got over the second denial phase that I was having an issue,” Erickson said.

“The EKG showed certain changes which would suggest that he was having a heart attack,” said Dr. Lokesh Gowda of WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital.

Dr. Gowda noticed something alarming. Erickson had a 100 percent blockage in an artery in his heart.

“This entire part of his artery was not getting any blood flow prior to the angioplasty,” Gowda said.

“That’s when they took me up to the stent lab and put a stent in,” Erickson said. “They put it in through my wrist.”

The stent runs up a patient’s arm or groin to the heart during the procedure. The procedure isn’t new in itself, but it is new to WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. That means the procedure can be done there, and the patient doesn’t have to be transferred to another location.

“We usually use balloons and stents to open up the artery,” Gowda said.

Erickson spent five days in the hospital. He’s is back to working on his food truck and feeling better than ever after his procedure. He worked out, ate well, and maintained a healthy weight before his heart attack and never suspected it would happen to him. He now has a message for other people.

“The denial phase hit me twice,” Erickson said. “You have to get over immediately, or otherwise that will kill you.

“In 50 percent of people, they might have atypical symptoms, which might be heartburn-like symptoms, pain between the shoulder blades, jaw pain, fatigue, things like that,” Gowda said.

Erickson is back on his food truck and enjoying life to the fullest.

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