Mary Wall and her husband J.C. were in the middle of a routine doctor’s check-up when Mary suffered a massive heart attack.
Mary and J.C. Wall make a one-hour drive from Angleton to Galveston every three months for a standing appointment with Megan Berman, M.D., at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The husband and wife have been UTMB patients for 15 years. The doctor sees both of them at the same time, in the same room at each of these regular checkups.
“At our age, you can never be too careful,” said Mary. “We like it that the doctor can take care of both of us at once. We’ve been married 68 years, so we’re not shy about any of it.”
Recently, however, when 84-year-old Mary and 91-year-old J.C. showed up for their appointment at the UTMB Internal Medicine Clinic, what was supposed to be a routine visit ended with Mary being rushed to the emergency room — thanks to a fast-acting team of UTMB employees.
While having her vital signs taken, Mary told medical assistant Brandi Norwood she was feeling some indigestion and stomach pain.
“Where exactly is the pain?” asked Norwood.
Mary put her hand on her stomach and traced a line upward, ending at her chest.
Norwood quickly told nurse Terri Bryan and also reported that Mary’s blood pressure was higher than usual.
Bryan grabbed the portable EKG machine and calmly rolled it into the room where the Walls were waiting.
“We just want to check and make sure everything’s OK with your heart since you’re having chest pain,” Bryan said, as she attached the EKG monitors to Mary’s body.
“Everything happened so fast after that, I was in a state of shock,” said J.C., who watched Bryan’s face grow very serious as all three watched the EKG reading spike before their eyes.
“The nurse just tore out of the room,” said J.C. “Then everything started happening.”
Bryan rushed to Berman, who was seeing another patient, to show her the EKG reading.
Berman took one look and confirmed what Bryan already knew — Mary was having a massive heart attack.
Bryan quickly enlisted the help of nurse Linda Salazar to administer aspirin, nitroglycerin and oxygen, while Berman called for an ambulance.
Everybody in the room kept calm and tried to help Mary and J.C. do the same while they waited for the ambulance. Nurse Liz Leigh held down the fort with all the other patients in the office while the emergency unfolded.
“We took the patient’s vitals again right before EMS got here and could see that the aspirin and nitro were getting things stabilized,” said Salazar.
The protocols were working. Mary was stable and conscious as EMS got her into the ambulance.
Mary was in UTMB’s emergency room within 30 minutes of having her vitals taken. She was rushed into surgery where a stent was placed to alleviate a blockage.
“It was a great example of teamwork that saved her life,” said Berman.
Two days later, Mary was resting comfortably with her husband by her side in UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital. She was released one week after surgery.
J.C. praised the cardiologist, Umamahesh Rangasetty, M.D., who took time to show them a video of Mary’s surgery on his computer screen and explain exactly what he had done.
“He was really some doctor to take the time to do that for me,” said J.C. “When we finished watching it, we walked out of his office down the hall with our arms around each other. It was really something.
Fast action by, from left, Megan Berman, M.D.; nurses Terri Bryan, Linda Salazar and Liz Leigh; and medical assistant Brandi Norwood help save Mary Wall’s life.