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Medical Edge: American Heart Association Walk

Updated: Monday, March 10 2014, 05:14 PM EDT
CINCINNATI (Liz Bonis) -- The American Heart Association is expecting 25,000 people this weekend for it's annual Heart Mini and Many Walk or run to support someone they love.
One team member, however, signed up because he had a life changing year.  It was a day that started much like any other for Pat and Sue Kowalski just a few months ago.  Both were at home with their two children, Ian and Taylor, when some unusual symptoms led Pat to drive himself to the hospital and then turn around when they seemed to disappear and go back home.

Patrick Kowalski said, "And as I turned into the neighborhood, it was as if someone just grabbed my heart and squeezed it in a vice."

That led to a trip back to the hospital and an immediate trip to a cath lab.  It's a room where Doctor Tim Brennan, an interventional cardiologist, can use images to see why a patient has had a heart attack.

Doctor Brennan's team opened up that narrowing to restore blood flow but he admits, "I wasn't expecting to find the degree of blockage that we found but it was pretty severe."

What makes this story even more unique is that the patient turned out to be his boss.  And as you might imagine, that puts a little pressure on a provider.  The important thing he says to note is that he had  a strong family history of this disease, and it reminds all of us to ask questions about our own lives.

Yup, that's right, Pat Kowalski is Chief Financial Officer of the hospital now called Mercy Health West.

Pat tells us, "I am 45-years-old, my father had a heart attack at the same age, four doctors in four states told me I should pay attention to family history and I thought I was smarter than all of them."

He learned, however, that it's tough to outsmart genetics.  Which is why early screening is recommended if you have a direct family connection to this disease.

Pat Kowalski says he also learned something from his 8-year-old son who attends a catholic grade school, "And they have a prayer wall, and apparently the Monday after this happened on a Sunday, my son found a post it note on his teacher's desk, so he wrote his prayer request on this sticky note and put it on their prayer wall."

The note says simply, "My dad's heart got hurt really bad," words that tell us how quickly life can change.

"So I carry it with me now, and it kind of reminds me every day of what happened and what's important," Pat said.

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