A Long Island man suffered what's called a "widow maker" heart attack, but credits his survival to light traffic, green lights — and golf.
Kevin Kapela was hitting the links and was on the 9th tee at Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn Heights when he suddenly felt ill.
"I took out my driver, I swung for the stars — as soon as I swung, I felt lightning bolts going down my arms honestly," Kapela said. "And I thought maybe I just pulled muscles. I took two steps and I was barely breathing."
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The 64-year-old somehow managed to walk with his clubs to his car, and then drive three-and-a-half miles to North Shore University Hospital. He was even able to call his wife.
"He said 'I don’t feel good, meet me at North Shore.' I said what’s the matter, he said 'My elbows are killing me, I can’t even talk, just get there,'" said wife Gina Kapela.
The pain was excruciating, and Kapela thought it could only be one thing: his heart.
"I see the ambulance, I just leave my car. The attendant said don’t park it here, I said 'I’m having a heart attack!'" Kapela recalled.
Dr. Guarav Rao said Kapela was exhibiting classic signs of a heart attack, as he was sweating and clutching his chest. But pictures immediately showed something even more dire: He was suffering what's referred to as a "widow maker" heart attack, with his artery completely blocked.
"This artery, in movies and newspapers, is referred to as the widow maker because it's the most important heart vessel that anyone has," Dr. Rao said.
The doctor put in two stents and then used a machine to deliver supersaturated oxygen to help heal Kapela's heart muscle — marking one of the first times that kind of therapy has been used.
Surprisingly, Kapela said that playing golf probably helped save his life because had this happened at home, he would have probably taken a nap and not gone to the hospital to get the life-saving attention he needed. He said that it's a "miracle that I'm here."
The American Heart Association says only 12% of people suffering the so-called "widow makers" outside the hospital survive. And while doctors are glad Kevin made it to the ER in time, they recommend others call 911.
"We are very lucky that Kevin is here today, but I do not recommend driving to the hospital while you’re having a heart attack," said Chief of Cardiology Dr. Rajiv Jauhar.