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Beacon patient grateful to caregivers for saving her life after heart attack

It has been nearly five years since Sandy Miller awoke on a late June morning and knew something didn’t feel right. She just wasn’t sure what it was.

She was experiencing some sharp pains that shot from her back to the front of her chest. Sandy started going about her day, but a friend’s concern prompted her to ask her husband, Bill, to take her to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital of South Bend.

The emergency physician told her that everything was checking out OK, but the care team wanted to keep her overnight. While at the hospital she had another chest pain. And the next morning, Sandy underwent a nuclear stress test, a type of test that helps doctors evaluate heart function without the patient having to walk on a treadmill.

But when she was asked how she was feeling, her answer wasn’t great. “I said, ‘I feel like I’m going to throw up or pass out,’ and my hand started shaking.” The doctor told the team that he wanted to get Sandy to the cath lab immediately.

Bill had gone home briefly, so Sandy asked someone to call him to come back. When he arrived, he was in tears.

“I said it’s fine, I’m going to be OK,” Sandy recalled.

Sandy was having a heart attack, which led her to have two stents placed to restore blood flow to her heart. She had a 99% blockage in one artery and a 95% blockage in another artery. “If I had been home, I would not have made it to the hospital,” she said.

She’s very grateful to the Emergency Department and Heart & Vascular Services caregivers who she said saved her life.

“They were so calm. They were all so caring,” she said. “I felt like they were caring for their grandmother or their mother. I didn’t feel like I was just a patient or a number.”

No matter when Sandy has needed care at Memorial, she says the staff have always made her feel well cared for. This time, she was also especially grateful to the hospital chaplain, who stayed with Bill throughout her procedure.

“The chaplain did not leave his side while we were there. My husband really appreciated that. He was scared to death,” she said.

“Everyone was wonderful. I just feel confident with the doctors at Memorial,” she added.

Because of her experiences, Sandy has been inspired to register as an organ donor, and she gives to Beacon Health Foundation as an expression of her gratitude.

“I made it through my stroke. I made it through my heart attack. If I can help somebody else, I’ll help,” she explained. “I have been blessed so much and spared, so I want to help somebody else if I can.”

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Whether you are looking to understand your health risks, are living with an ongoing heart or blood vessel problem or have experienced a life-changing emergency, your Beacon care team is here to help – with the information, resources and care you need. Learn more about our care team and the services we provide: https://www.beaconhealthsystem.org/heart-vascular-stroke-care/