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Heart Attack Can’t Keep Music Teacher Off the Stage

By |2024-05-10T08:42:16-04:00July 11th, 2023|Categories: Cardiology, Health A-Z, Patient Stories|Tags: , |

When Melody Blasenheim woke early in the morning and felt nauseous, she assumed she had food poisoning. She sat on the bathroom floor, waiting to vomit. But when she felt a sharp pain in her chest, she knew she had to seek emergency care.

At the Emergency Department (ED) at CentraState, the music director at Red Bank Catholic High School developed radiating pain down her arm and intermittent tingling in her hands. Before even completing Melody’s insurance paperwork, the triage nurse in the ED performed an electrocardiogram, which showed abnormal results. Cardiologist Jatinchandra Patel, DO, quickly diagnosed Melody with a STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction) and she was rushed to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

What is a STEMI?

A STEMI is a heart attack with 100% coronary artery blockage. To open the blockage, the CentraState interventional cardiology team performs a procedure called angioplasty. Dye is injected into the patient’s arteries to help the interventional cardiologist determine which artery is clogged. Then, a wire is guided to the blockage through a blood vessel in the wrist or groin. At CentraState, 90% of these procedures are performed using wrist access, which is more comfortable for patients and has a shorter recovery. Next, a balloon is inflated to open the artery and a stent is placed to keep it open.

“This minimally invasive intervention decreases the patient’s risk of vascular complications, infection and bleeding and shortens recovery,” Dr. Patel explains.

Melody’s blockage was in her left anterior descending artery, the main artery to the heart. Because of the total blockage, Melody’s heart wasn’t pumping enough blood to the rest of her body, requiring immediate intervention. Luckily, the 55-year-old Manalapan resident was in good hands. “CentraState has a streamlined process to get patients to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab as soon as possible, ideally in less than 60 minutes from when they step foot in the ED,” explains Amy Quinlan, DNP, MBA, APN, RCIS, CCRN, cardiovascular service line director.

Understanding the Symptoms

For women, the symptoms of a heart attack can be vague. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, weakness, pain radiating to your back or any combination of these symptoms, seek emergency care by calling 911 immediately.

“Because the symptoms of a heart attack for women can be confusing, they often wait too long to seek treatment,” Quinlan says. “If Melody had waited 45 minutes longer, she wouldn’t have survived.”

“I thought a heart attack would be much more painful, but my pain was only at a six on a scale of 1 to 10,” says Melody. “In my experience, labor and menstrual cramps are more painful.” Melody returned to school a week after the procedure. She began cardiac rehabilitation at CentraState to strengthen her heart, and since starting the program, she has improved her heart’s ability to pump blood by more than 50%. This spring, she sang at a church with her daughter, chaperoned a school trip to Virginia and traveled to Woodstock, N.Y. She’s now on cardiac medication and exercises regularly at CentraState Fitness & Wellness.

“I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that I had a heart attack,” Melody says. “There was ‘Melody before’ and ‘Melody after,’ and ‘Melody after’ is putting herself first.”

To learn more about Interventional Cardiology Services at CentraState, visit or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).

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