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Monday
Feb172014

Shaken by a Heart Attack


Don Hochhalter and his wife Lora pictured here during the WHC 1950's-themed fall fundraiser
  At age 55, Don Hochhalter would never have expected to hear the phrase “you are having a heart attack.” As store manager of Wishek’s Titan Machinery, Don knew he was carrying a lot of responsibility, and sometimes stress, in his job, but considered himself rather healthy. It was a heart attack that changed Don’s perspective of his life and local medical care.
  It was March 21st of 2013, and the pain in Don’s chest and shoulders that he had been experiencing for several days forced Don to pull over in Streeter on his way back to Wishek from a business trip. Don closed his eyes and reclined his seat, trying to bear the pain’s increased intensity. “I didn’t know how long I was there,” says Don. After a while, the pain let up. Don recalls, “The German in me said, ‘I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m dead.” Naturally, it took a lot for his wife, Lora, to convince him to get help.
After arriving at the Wishek ER, the staff immediately called eEmergency, a two-way video system that connects the Wishek Emergency Room to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D. “The whole time I was thinking ‘this is just heart burn,’” said Don. The Avera cardiologist talked with Polly Benson, PA-C/NP about what Don was experiencing and advised her to run a test. It was confirmed that Don had, or was going to have, a heart attack. “Having these technologies in this small town is incredible,” Don commented. The emergency crew put Don in an ambulance and rushed him to St. Alexius in Bismarck. “I can’t say enough about the staff. They were pros through this whole process and really kept me calm. Everything was handled professionally and in a caring manner.” said Don.
At St. Alexius, they found the blockage in Don's heart and inserted a stent to open up his artery. “I could feel the second that they put in the stent, the pain was gone.” Only three days later, he was back at work. “(The WHC staff) have a personal touch and passion for customer care. For the PA to call both my wife and I to see how we were doing...it’s quite unique. You can tell they whole-heartedly cared. You are not just the patient in room #6."
Don is currently on some medication for his heart as well as trying to eat healthier, walk for exercise, and delegate more at work. He plans on going back to the clinic for a yearly physical. “Every time something hurts, my mind thinks back to what I experienced on the road in Streeter. It was a scary deal to think that it could happen again.” After going through this experience, his biggest advice is for people to immediately get to the clinic or hospital if they feel pain anywhere in the chest or shoulders. “Don’t be so stubborn, especially when it comes to your heart. It’s a good idea to get to the clinic before you get to that point (of a heart attack). For me, it could have been all over on the side of the road," says Don.

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