Heartfelt support

St. Charles heart attack survivor forms Cardiac Arrest Survivors’ Support Group with the backing of the St. Charles County Ambulance District

By Brett Auten

Thom Meinert will never forget it.

It was October 2015 and during one of the last lawn mows of the year when the pain started near his shoulder and instantaneously worsened. 

Home alone, and the pain not letting up, Meinert, who was 59-years-old at the time, made the decision that saved his life. He called 911. The St. Charles County Ambulance District arrived just in time as Meinert’s condition continued to plummet. He soon lost his pulse (the first of 10 instances that occurred).

“I distinctly remember waking up to a female paramedic looking down at me yelling, ‘Stay with me Come on, stay with me,’ while I felt a very heavy pressure pushing on my chest making it almost impossible to breathe,” Meinert said. “One minute, I was talking to the paramedics, then the next, I’m looking up saying, ‘this is it?’ The paramedics informed my family that they had lost me seven times in the ambulance, and another three times in the emergency room, even with the great team of medical personnel that was working on saving my life.”

Meinert and his family were told that another 5-10 minutes and he would have died. His diagnosis was a 99 percent blocked L.A.D. (Lateral Anterior Descending) heart artery which is nicknamed the Widow Maker. This specific heart attack has a very low survival rate but with modern equipment and CPR methods of continuous chest compressions, there is hope.

Meinert is among a growing group of individuals in the region who have been successfully resuscitated by paramedics using cutting-edge protocols for cardiac arrest management. Meinert considers himself fortunate to reside in St. Charles. In St. Charles County, an individual who experiences an out-of-hospital arrest is more than twice as likely to survive as compared to the national average

“Though I’m continually thankful for being given a new lease on life, there have been times over the past few years that have been difficult,” Meinert said. “These are times where it would simply be nice to talk with someone facing a similar situation.” 

That is what motivated him to launch the Cardiac Arrest Survivors’ Support Group and the inaugural meeting was held last week. Meinert is inviting any survivors throughout the St. Charles and the St. Louis metro area to attend the meetings. There are no formal agendas planned instead the group determines the format and focus of future meetings. Family members are welcome to attend as well. 

The Cardiac Arrest Survivors’ Support Group held at the St. Charles County Ambulance District Headquarters located at 4169 Old Mill Parkway, in St. Peters.

John Romeo is the SCCAD Deputy Chief Medical Officer. The St. Charles County Ambulance District implemented a new set of protocols for sudden cardiac arrest.  At the time, it was rather groundbreaking, but since then, numerous other agencies have adopted the protocols because of the great results SCCAD experienced with them. Romeo can foresee the support group growing by leaps and bounds. 

“I think it is a fantastic opportunity for survivors to network and share their experiences,” Romeo said. “I think potentially, once the message gets out and grows, the support group can help change the mindset and help survivors move on and lead a meaningful life.”

After recovering from his heart attack, Meinert felt a tremendous urge to get out and talk about the experience which led to the formation of the group. In future meetings, he hopes to bring cardiologists and psychologists in as guest speakers. Meinert added that the psychological ramifications linger long after.

“I struggle with it every day,” he said. “I’m so thankful to be alive and all the great things that come with it but there are many times I worry about when the next one will hit. Every time there is chest pain I wonder.”

For more information on upcoming group sessions, call or text Meinert at 636-699-9321 or email e-mail guitarmanthom@charter.net.

PULLBOX

Catch the signs early
Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:
n Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
n Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
nShortness of breath.
nOther possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Symptoms vary between men and women. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

  • Provided by the American Heart Association