“I just thought it was heartburn.” Michael Mace recalls the scene four days after his 50th birthday, while he ate a sandwich at Subway: “I was with my fiancé, Patricia, and we were traveling from Stroud to Claremore and had stopped to eat a late lunch when I started feeling sick.” Michael had been fighting similar symptoms for years so he thought the feeling would eventually subside and continued to run errands with Patricia.
“We stopped at Reasor’s, and while Patricia was shopping inside, I started getting really bad chest pains. As soon as she came out, I told her we needed to go to the emergency room, so we rushed to Hillcrest Claremore. The last thing I remember was driving down Blue Starr Drive.” Patricia ran into the hospital to get help and was told Michael was having a massive heart attack in the parking lot.
“I had pulled up to the wrong door of the hospital, but all I could do was run inside and tell the nurses that he had already taken four or five nitroglycerin,” says Patricia. “One nurse came running out to try and help while Michael tried to get out of the truck on his own. He ended up passing out on the nurse, bless her heart. That is when she screamed, ‘He’s coding!’ and two more nurses came out and put him in a wheelchair and wheeled him through the doors.”
Dr. Gary Brooks, Emergency Medicine physician, met Michael and the nurses at the doors and lifted Michael out of the wheelchair and onto the table, immediately administering CPR.
“After I had parked the truck, all of the nurses were so nice to me and tried to keep me calm but explained to me that it was a massive heart attack and that he was in critical condition,” says Patricia. “I couldn’t stop crying, but everyone there was so nice and had the patience of a saint.”
Soon after Dr. Brooks performed CPR on Michael he was transferred to Oklahoma Heart Institute (OHI) by helicopter. “They didn’t tell me how bad it was, but they did tell Patricia,” shares Michael. “They just told me it was critical.” Patricia was able to see Michael briefly before he was transported to OHI in Tulsa. “They told me there were too many people in the helicopter because a heart doctor was going with them, so I couldn’t go,” she says. “So I had to drive to Tulsa to meet them there. They told me they couldn’t promise me he’d make it in the helicopter.” Once Patricia arrived at OHI, Michael was already out of surgery and in his hospital room.
“From the time I arrived at Hillcrest Claremore to the time I was on the operating table in Tulsa was about an hour and a half,” says Michael. “They didn’t know it at the time, but I had two rips in my right coronary artery so that was why I was going in and out and couldn’t remember anything.
Dr. David Liff, Oklahoma Heart Institute Interventional Cardiologist, performed the heart catheter procedure and put two stents in on the right side which was 98 percent blocked. “My left side was also 89 percent blocked, but they wanted to let the right side rest and heal before they put stents in on the left side,” says Michael.
Michael stayed in the hospital for two and a half days to recover after surgery. “All of the staff were wonderful and I can’t complain about anything,” he says. “They kept Patricia informed, and there was a nurse in my room at all times because I’m not one to lie in bed, but they told me I was too sick to get up. If it weren’t for the doctors and nurses, I know I wouldn’t have made it.”
Michael returned home to rest and was scheduled for his second surgery a month later. One week before his surgery, Michael began to have chest pains again and took nitroglycerin, but knew exactly what was happening. “I could tell I was having another heart attack, so we went right back to Hillcrest Claremore and they confirmed what I thought,” says Michael. “They wanted to treat me there this time, but I said, ‘no, let’s go back to Dr. Liff, because he’s familiar with my heart and has already operated on me and knows where the blockages are.’” Michael was transported by ambulance back to OHI where they operated on him again.
Today, Michael is doing better and has gone to several checkups and tests at OHI with Patricia. “I go with him to every appointment,” says Patricia. “Everyone has just been really awesome — it has amazed me.”
OHI also helped Michael get set up with a primary care physician through Utica Park Clinic. “Now, I don’t miss a single appointment, and I won’t see anyone else for my heart. It has to be OHI and Dr. Liff,” Michael says.
“They took me seriously and treated me like an equal, not someone off of the street. With every other hospital, you are just a number to them, but OHI and Hillcrest really care more about the patient. I would recommend them to anybody.”
Patricia feels the same way after seeing how they cared for Michael. “Thank God they saved him. They did everything just right. I’ve never seen a team work so efficiently before in my life,” she says.
To learn more about Dr. Liff and Oklahoma Heart Institute, please click here.