A Swift Emergency Response Saved Reverend Curtis Dias from a Heart Attack

It started as a normal Wednesday for Reverend Curtis Dias at the Calvary Pentecostal Church in East Freetown, MA.

He had a busy day full of meetings, organizing charitable events and lending a helping hand to those in need. To this community, he’s known as the man that keeps on going. 

However, during a video call late that afternoon, Rev. Dias began to feel pressure over the left side of his chest. “When it first hit I thought it was acid reflux,” he said. “It wasn’t a harsh feeling.”

Knowing something was not right, he stepped aside for a drink of water before returning to the call and quickly requesting to end it. “My younger brother was on the call and immediately called me with my other brother to see if I was okay,” he says. “At that point I had decided to lay down in a back pew and they called 911.”

Freetown EMS arrived within minutes and performed an EKG to monitor his heart. It was then that they began communication with the emergency department at Charlton Memorial Hospital.

“They worked so efficiently and quickly that there was no time for me to worry. They were seamless and I remained calm,” said Rev. Dias.

Upon immediate EMS contact, Southcoast Health’s on-call Cardiac Catheterization Team quickly made their way in to the hospital.

Members of this specialized team all live within a certain response time to make sure that patients receive care in a timely manner. When they get a call, they immediately stop what they are doing and go to the hospital, no matter what time of day it is.

When the ambulance arrived at Charlton Memorial, the awaiting team introduced themselves to Rev. Dias and began to brief themselves on the case at hand, relaying the need for a life-saving procedure to him.

Rev. Dias experienced what doctors commonly refer to as a STEMI (ST elevation myocardial infarction), a type of heart attack in which a full blockage of a heart artery occurs suddenly, causing ongoing damage to the heart muscle. In this case, Rev. Dias was experiencing a full blockage of the heart’s biggest heart artery, the left anterior descending artery (LAD). This type of heart attack is also known as a “widowmaker.”

When this happens, blood cannot travel through the LAD, a main artery that supplies about 50 percent of blood to the heart. Immediate treatment is crucial for a patient’s chance at survival and if not treated quickly, there will be a lack of blood flow to the heart itself, leaving the heart weak and unable to pump blood sufficiently to the rest of the body.

 “All I could see was the young doctor’s eyes. He was wearing his medical mask and I’ll never forget it,” he says. “He was calm and assertive, which I appreciated, but his eyes spoke to me and told me I was in great hands. I told him, ‘let’s do what we gotta do.’”

Rev. Dias’ doctor was Benjamin Zorach, MD, an Interventional Cardiologist and Structural Heart Specialist at Southcoast Health.

He and his specialized team performed an angioplasty procedure, used to stretch open the narrowed or blocked artery, allowing for the insertion of two stents (tiny, expandable metal mesh coils) that help keep the artery from narrowing or closing again.

What makes Rev. Dias’ story so exceptional is the short amount of time it took to receive his life-saving treatment.

The American Heart Association has a gold standard for the treatment of cases like this. To achieve this standard, the span of time from first medical contact to the restoration of blood flow back to the heart must be within 90 minutes.

Due to their excellent communication with EMS and seamless teamwork, Dr. Zorach and his team treated this patient in just 67 minutes.

With this rapid care Rev. Dias was soon fist bumping his brothers on the way from the OR to his hospital room.

Today, he has adopted a new normal. He makes sure he stays active by walking regularly and more recently, stepped back on his pulpit to preach his Sunday sermon for the first time since his heart attack.

He’s grateful to also be back to helping those in the community. “I’m thankful that they saved my life, so that I’m still able to save others’ lives.”

For more information on Southcoast Health cardiovascular services, visit Top Cardiologist Southeast MA | Southcoast Health.