Amateur golf champion Sven Bock was just getting over a case of COVID-19 earlier this year when he mistook a heart attack for lingering symptoms from an upper respiratory infection.
What Sven was experiencing was a STEMI heart attack that was complicated by cardiac arrest, says John George, MD, interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center. In his case, he developed a potentially lethal change in his heart’s rhythm.
“Sven suffered what’s called an ST elevation myocardial infarction, a complete blockage of one of the heart’s main supply arteries,” Dr. George says. “That causes the heart muscle to die unless blood flow is restored immediately.”
Although that day in January is still a blur for Sven, one memory stands out: “I remember pleading with them to not let me die.”
He and Dr. George both credit the training, speed, and efficiency of all the teams involved in his care for saving his life that day.
Sven is a three-time winner of the Golf Channel Am Tour Flight Championship, along with a U.S. Am Tour Flight Championship.
GETTING HELP JUST IN TIME
Before his hospital stay, Sven was feeling miserable, days after finally testing negative for COVID-19 in January. Suspecting another upper respiratory infection, he called his primary care physician and was prescribed antibiotics.
The pain continued to get worse, Sven says, but not alarmingly so until that weekend, when it expanded to his chest. Even then, the 57-year-old dismissed his growing discomfort as an anxiety attack. Finally, he decided to seek help — and just in time.
“I could hardly walk down the stairs because I was so dizzy,” Sven says. “I knew I needed to call an ambulance.”
Sven had three stents placed using balloon angioplasty to open the arteries supplying his heart.
READY AND WAITING
When paramedics got to his home, they immediately hooked Sven up to an EKG machine and determined he was having a heart attack. That triggered an alert to be sent to the cardiac catheterization lab at Methodist Richardson.
Thanks to a joint program between Richardson EMS and Methodist Richardson, the cath lab is activated and its team of professionals is fully mobilized before the patient even gets to the hospital.
Once in the cath lab, Sven’s heartbeat was so irregular, a condition known as arrhythmia, that the heart team had to use a defibrillator twice to stabilize it. Once he was stable, Dr. George could open the blocked arteries and restore the blood flow.
Today, Sven is back on course ready to compete on the U.S. amateur tour.
THREE STENTS PLACED
The team used dye to identify the blockages, while Dr. George inserted a catheter-based device through a major artery, threading it all the way to the blood vessels supplying his heart. Then a tiny balloon was used to open the blood vessels, a procedure known as balloon angioplasty.
Dr. George and his team kept the arteries open using a small mesh tube called a stent. Ultimately, Sven would have three arteries opened and three stents placed. Less than a week after arriving at the hospital, the championship golfer was back up to par and headed home.
“I went home a few days later and have felt like my old self since,” Sven says.
While the experience has taught the amateur athlete to pay better attention to his body rather than “try to be a tough guy,” Sven also learned he has a healthcare team he can count on when the worst happens.
“From the EMS knowing to transmit ahead to alert the hospital, to the cath lab team’s quick action,” he says, “the entire time I felt safe and taken care of during the scariest moments of my life. My life was saved that day.”
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