Your Health Today Magazine

From Total Blockage to Total Recovery

hockey coach

Tim Huffman is often found on the ice as a coach at the Affton Ice Rink.

Tim Huffman wasn’t himself one morning in November: he figured he was getting a bad cold.

Paramedics determined otherwise, and rushed Tim to St. Anthony’s Emergency Department with a massive heart attack.

Forty-nine minutes after he arrived, Tim achieved lasting relief after Interventional Cardiologist William Wright, M.D., performed a cardiac catheterization and opened Tim’s blocked artery with a stent.

“I can’t thank Dr. Wright enough,” recalled Tim, 52. “When he opened that stent up in my heart, I was 100 percent better.”

First responders from the Mehlville Fire Protection District had performed an electrocardiogram on Tim and had notified Dr. Wright and Emergency Department staff to be ready. Mehlville is one of six EMS agencies that are under the medical direction of St. Anthony’s.

The artery on the right side of Tim’s heart was 99 percent blocked.

“Many times we see that it’s totally blocked,” Dr. Wright said. “We were able to get it all the way open; there is no residual blockage. Tim should have a very good prognosis. His heart function is back to normal.

“The goal is to always be under 90 minutes, from your arrival in the Emergency Department to the placement of a stent or the completion of treatment,” Dr. Wright said. “The faster we can do it, the better off you are. That’s our goal every time.”

The artery on the right side of Tim’s heart was 99 percent blocked.

Just one year earlier, Tim had lost his wife, Jennifer, to a sudden heart attack. She was 44. He credits his sons Jeff, 20; and Jack, 13, with getting him the help he needed during his own crisis. Tim had dismissed his condition, but Jeff and Jack noticed he appeared clammy. They quickly googled the symptoms and called 911.

“If it wouldn’t have been for my boys, I’d be dead,” he said.

A longtime hockey and baseball coach in South County, Tim knew some of the Mehlville paramedics who arrived to treat him.

“Within eight minutes of me going in the Emergency Department, they already knew what the problem was and darned near had it fixed,” he said. “I cannot remember all the names of my caregivers, but I think of every single one of them every single day. They were wonderful.”

Four days after he left the hospital, Tim was back on the job as a commercial washer and dryer technician. In hindsight, he realizes the fatigue, back pain and jaw pain he had experienced were warning signs of heart trouble. He had been in reasonably good health, had never been hospitalized and was slim: 6 feet, 4 inches tall, 170 pounds.

“I go every six months to see Dr. Wright, and I really, highly suggest that men over 50 get their hearts checked,” he said. “I’m very lucky to be here.”