Pittsburg grandmother, hospital volunteer, breast cancer survivor now also heart attack survivor | Ascension

Pittsburg grandmother, hospital volunteer, breast cancer survivor now also heart attack survivor


For eight years, Jo Ann Lucas was a regular Ascension Via Christi volunteer, spending a few days a week at the hospital in Pittsburg and more recently at the outpatient entrance.

Then on Jan. 27, she made an unexpected trip to the hospital, this time as a patient.

“I had just returned from my cat’s vet appointment and started not feeling well in a way I haven’t felt before,” says the 80-year-old breast cancer survivor. “My head and left arm hurt and it felt like there was an elephant on my chest.”

With no history of family heart disease, abnormal blood pressure or high cholesterol, it never occurred to Jo Ann that she might be having a heart attack. She called her daughter who lives nearby to discuss her symptoms and then, realizing it could be something serious, called 9-1-1.

“In the ambulance, the EMT gave me an aspirin to chew,” says Jo Ann, leading her to question, “What’s going on? I don’t have a heart problem.”

She was met at the door by Tim Stebbins, MD, medical director of the hospital’s Emergency Department. Dr. Stebbins, who had been receiving advance information about Jo Ann’s medical condition while she was en route, notified cardiologist Bashar Marji, MD, who was standing ready in the Heart Center's Heart Catheterization Lab.

“I wasn’t in the ER for probably 10 minutes before they took me back to the Cath Lab,” says Jo Ann.

Once on the table, the team quickly worked to relieve the blockage and placed a stent to keep the coronary artery open.

From the time she called the ambulance to when she woke up in recovery, only two hours had passed.

Her door-to-balloon time, which is one of the key quality measures for treating heart attacks, was 58 minutes, which is better than the national standard of 90 minutes.

“Time is muscle,” says Dr. Marji. “The faster we open the heart artery and reestablish normal blood flow, the more heart muscle we save.”

Jo Ann says lying still afterward was her least favorite part but the staff made her post-op stay as enjoyable as possible.

“All the staff, and especially my nurse, Eric Seiwert, were so caring and polite that they made my recovery better.”

At her follow-up appointment on Feb. 11, she was pleased to learn that she could resume her normal activities without restrictions. Jo Ann has already begun adding to the 7,000 volunteer service hours she previously had accumulated. Going forward, she also plans to spend her time at her Bingo Club, for which she serves as its secretary, visiting with her two grandchildren and great-grandchild and enjoying an occasional meal out at one of her favorite restaurants.

“Being more concerned about cancer and not showing any signs of heart disease, I never thought this would happen to me,” she says. “But I am thankful for the doctors and nurses and staff who helped me return to living my normal life.”

To learn more about Pittsburg's Ascension Via Christi Heart Center and heart care, visit https://ascn.io/34amyJE