Alzenia Melton - Outpatient Chest Pain Clinic

Pulse rate chartAlzenia Melton felt severe chest pain and shortness of breath when she attempted to get out of bed one morning in December 2010. She thought moving around might help, so she got up but the pain only got worse. She called her daughter, who took her to the Emergency Department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. When doctors examined her, they discovered her blood pressure was sky high.

“I think the pain is what brought my blood pressure up,” says Mrs. Melton, 73, who takes medication to treat her high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and rheumatoid arthritis. An electrocardiogram (ECG) and other tests didn’t reveal any problems with her heart, so the doctors worked to control her pain and bring down her blood pressure.

It took a while to stabilize her blood pressure, so Mrs. Melton, who works as a social worker and supervisor running seven food pantries and the Basic Human Needs Program for Catholic Charities of Chicago, was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

After spending the night in the hospital, Mrs. Melton felt much better and the decision was made to discharge her from the hospital and refer her to Northwestern Memorial's Outpatient Chest Pain Clinic for patients with a very low risk for short-term cardiovascular events. Mrs. Melton was able to get a clinic appointment that morning with Keith H. Benzuly, MD, interventional cardiologist and associate professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who examined her and ordered additional tests. Additional testing found no major problems, but it did reveal that Mrs. Melton has mild aortic insufficiency, a heart valve disease in which the aortic valve does not close properly causing blood to flow backward instead of forward through the valve. Mrs. Melton will continue to see Dr. Benzuly as an outpatient to monitor her aortic insufficiency.

Mrs. Melton was happy that her chest pain was determined to be musculoskeletal in nature, rather than heart-related, and she was eager to get back to her very active lifestyle, which, in addition to working, includes volunteering weekly at a supper program for homeless and hungry people, growing flowers and vegetables in her back yard, and singing every Sunday in her church’s 200-member choir.

Mrs. Melton was grateful for the short hospital stay and being seen so quickly at the Outpatient Chest Pain Clinic. “I’ve always received such good care at Northwestern,” she said.