MDVIP Patient Remembers Narrowly Avoiding the "Widow Maker"
Linda Smith fondly reflects on cherished moments over the past year with her grandson, Caleb. She thinks back to trick-or-treating and eating watermelon balls during sleepovers. She remembers attending his preschool graduation, visiting the Arizona Art Museum and spending holidays with family.
And she remembers the day that could have altered all of these moments.
Ms. Smith, a retired school teacher in Sun City, Arizona, is generally a healthy woman, weighing 108 pounds with good cholesterol. A patient of an MDVIP doctor, she has annual preventive screenings and advanced testing. Her husband says, “She’s kind of a little dynamo.”
A few years ago while fishing at a lake with her family, the walk back up the boat ramp left Ms. Smith huffing and out of breath. It didn’t last long, so she thought nothing of it. The next day, she felt a tinge of numbness in her arm, as if her arm had “fallen asleep.” She’d had the fleeting sensation before, but this time, she woke with it.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is weird,’” she recalls.
She decided to call her MDVIP doctor, Nisal Samarasekera, MD. When “Dr. Sam” learned of her symptoms, he told Ms. Smith to come to his office right away. After his examination, Dr. Sam referred her immediately to a cardiologist.
That afternoon, Ms. Smith was admitted to a local hospital. The next morning, she had an angioplasty. When she awoke from the procedure, Ms. Smith learned an interventional cardiologist had inserted a stent into one of the arteries in her heart.
The doctor explained, “You were 99% blocked, young lady.” This easily could have become what is known as the “widow maker,” a sudden, fatal heart attack. From the moment a widow-maker heart attack strikes, survival time ranges from minutes to a few hours. “People get clogged up and have a heart attack and that’s the end of it,” Ms. Smith said.
With cardiovascular disease being the #1 killer in our country, Ms. Smith is testament to the importance of watching for symptoms of heart-related illness – and improving one’s habits to avoid heart disease.
Ms. Smith lists the membership benefits she’s enjoyed since being among the first group of patients to join Dr. Samarasekera’s MDVIP primary care practice. She spends little to no time in his waiting room, has thorough annual exams, and she appreciates that his staff knows her by name. She even has Dr. Sam’s cell number stored in her phone.
“It’s fabulous to be able to talk with him directly,” she said.
As a senior on Medicare and a supplemental plan, Ms. Smith views her MDVIP membership as complementary to her insurance. After witnessing her highly personalized care, her husband, Jerry, who has a family history of cancer, also joined Dr. Sam’s practice.
Following her cardiac episode, Ms. Smith did a lot of research and changed her habits. She learned that when it comes to widow maker heart attacks, prevention of this often devastating condition is critical.
Though her weight has always been good, she worked with the practice nutritionist to improve her diet. She replaced peanut butter with healthier almond butter, added more proteins to her meals – like egg salad, tuna and chicken, uses coconut oil for a host of health benefits, eats a lot more fruits and vegetables, and supplements her yogurt smoothies with protein powder.
Now, she sees a cardiologist every six weeks and has her lipids checked regularly.
She also tells anyone who will listen about the time her MDVIP doctor helped save her life. A religious woman, she called it a miracle.
“I thank Dr. Sam and MDVIP for more precious moments with my grandson, Caleb,” she said. “I feel so blessed that my doctor is available, cautious and proactive in keeping me healthy. How many wonderful moments would I have missed with my grandson if I had not seen him that day? I am looking forward to many more years with Caleb.”
She continued, “I tell my friends that the MDVIP membership is the best money you will spend in your life. I’m diligent about my health, and I know life revolves around health. You may be healthy today, but tomorrow is a brand-new day and anything can happen. I always want to be prepared.
“Oprah had Dr. Oz,” she said, “but I have Dr. Sam.”