Charles' Story- Heart Attack

Thanks to the world-class care Charles Sarahan II received from Virginia Heart’s interventional cardiologists and entire care team, he survived a serious heart attack and cardiogenic shock and is now back to living a more balanced and appreciative life, spent with his family and friends.

Like many Americans, Charles S. deals with a lot of stress in his daily life. In addition to a job for a federal agency that requires him to be available at all hours, he also cares for his grandchild.

When he suddenly found himself experiencing serious chest pain, he assumed it was just muscle aches due to lifting heavy boxes earlier in the day, but the pain did not subside. That is when he decided to call 9-1-1. Little did Charles know, he was having a massive heart attack and his body was about to go into cardiogenic shock.

Within minutes of making the call, he was on his way to Inova Loudoun Hospital, where Dr. Eric Pauley of Virginia Heart determined that Charles’ left anterior descending artery was 100 percent blocked. Dr. Pauley performed an emergency percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), inserting a catheter through Charles’ femoral artery to reach the coronary arteries. The blockage was cleared and a stent was placed.

But because Charles was also in cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs, Dr. Pauley had to place an Impella (artificial heart pump, or temporary left ventricular assist device) to ensure that Charles’ organs continued to receive vital blood flow while his heart recovered.  

About half of patients who have this combination, a heart attack and cardiogenic shock, do not survive. Thanks to the expertise and quick intervention delivered by Dr. Pauley coupled with the specialized cardiogenic shock care available at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Charles has made a complete recovery and is back enjoying his time with his family.

“Charles’ heart has made a great recovery, which is a testament to the hard work he did in cardiac rehab to help himself as well as to the kind of multidisciplinary care we provide at Virginia Heart,” Dr. Pauley said. “He is now living a happy, healthy life.”

Charles says he owes Dr. Pauley “a life debt. I’m alive because of Virginia Heart,” he said. But he also knows he needs to take steps to improve his overall health and well-being. In addition to exercising and improving his diet, Charles has made dramatic lifestyle changes that support his heart health. “I am learning to manage things better,” he said. He even requested a transfer to a less stressful position at work.

That means he now has more time to focus on the things that bring him joy in life, such as going on dates with his bride of 27 years, interacting with their grandchildren and watching football. “By all rights, I should be pushing daisies right now,” Charles said. “But I’ve been given a second chance and I am not going to waste it.”