Erik FitzPatrick

cardiac catheterization fahc vermont

Ninety minutes.

5,400 seconds.

Most of us would agree, it’s not the way we measure time, but what we do with it — and if you’d asked Montpelier attorney Erik FitzPatrick what he would do with 90 minutes, he might have imagined going on a long run, or having dinner with his wife Charlie and one-year-old daughter Abigail.

He would not have imagined that 90 minutes would mean the difference between life and death. Until May 15th.

Erik was running in the Corporate Cup Challenge, a 5k race in Montpelier, when he felt a mild chest and jaw tightness. “I wouldn’t even have described it as painful,” he says today. “It felt like I just hadn’t stretched enough.”

About three-quarters of the way through the race, he stopped to hug Charlie and Abigail on the sidelines.

That’s the last thing he remembers.

A few minutes later, he collapsed. Several runners behind him stopped to help. He was resuscitated twice, lying in the street.

“I was dead,” Erik says. “My heart had stopped and I wasn’t breathing.”

In the ambulance, he had to be resuscitated again.

Erik had suffered a type of heart attack known as a STEMI, an ST-elevation myocardial infarction. This meant that he had a complete blockage of an artery in his heart, requiring aggressive intervention to open the artery within 90 minutes.

At Fletcher Allen, we are continuously working to reduce the period of time between the STEMI patient’s arrival at the hospital and the performance of angioplasty to open the blocked artery.

Erik was taken to the Central Vermont Medical Center emergency department, where the emergency department team activated the STEMI protocol for immediate transfer to Fletcher Allen.

In Fletcher Allen’s cardiac catheterization lab, Cardiologist Matthew Watkins, M.D., inserted a catheter into one of Erik’s leg arteries, feeding it into the blocked artery supplying the front of the heart, and expanding a balloon to open the clogged artery — a procedure known as angioplasty.

A wire mesh tube, known as a stent, was placed at the spot of the blockage, to keep the vessel open.

All of this occurred within 90 minutes — preventing permanent damage to Erik’s heart.

After returning home, Erik continued his recovery on an outpatient basis at Fletcher Allen’s Cardiac Rehabilitation facility.

Less than six months after his heart attack, Erik has fully recovered, with no permanent damage to his heart. “I really feel that I received the highest level of care in every respect throughout my experience,” he says.

And while the numerical measurement of 90 minutes may hold
more meaning for him than it once did, right now he is very busy
enjoying life — every single minute of it.