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Patient Stories

Dan Gets Back in the Saddle

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Seek Care

Dan Sternberg, age 73, was on track to bike 1,000 cumulative miles by the Fourth of July. At the end of June, with just 50 miles to go, he went to the Emergency Department (ED) at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital with chest pain.

Along Dan’s road to the ED, he had felt tightness in his chest on three separate occasions. The first was on a bike ride with friends, and the second was on a stroll at the Chicago Botanical Gardens with his wife, Rena. Both times, the tightness went away after a few seconds. The third time was while relaxing in his living room, but the pain lasted longer than the previous episodes.

Dan called Internal Medicine Physician Evan S. Lu, MD, who instructed him to go to the ED.

Rena, Dan’s wife, has asthma and bronchial issues, and therefore is in a high-risk group for COVID-19. Dan and Rena have been cautious during the pandemic and were initially nervous to come to the hospital. But when they arrived and received care from Emergency Medicine Physician Steve R. Edelstein, MD, their anxiety about COVID-19 risk went away.

“When I got to the ED at Lake Forest Hospital, I’ve never had so many people pay attention to me at once,” says Dan. “The team was terrific.”

It turns out that the decision to come to the hospital saved Dan’s life.

After a variety of diagnostic procedures, from blood tests, to a chest X-ray to an electrocardiogram (EKG), Dan took a stress test, which involves running on a treadmill to see how well your heart responds. “I flunked the stress test,” says Dan, which meant that his heart wasn’t functioning normally. The battery of tests revealed that Dan had a 99% blockage in his heart’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery, which is also called the “widow maker” artery.

“It was a great thing that Dan came in when he did,” says Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiologist Ian D. Cohen, MD. “Waiting any longer could have resulted in a heart attack.”

The next morning, Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiologist Tim S. Provias, MD, performed an angioplasty, which is a procedure to place a stent, or a tiny metal tube that keeps the artery open, inside his LAD, that restored unimpeded blood flow through the artery.

Dan, who has five children and 13 grandchildren, was shocked that he needed this surgery but grateful that he decided to come to the ED despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dan is the perfect example of why you need to come in if something is wrong and not to avoid coming to the ED because of COVID-19 fears,” says Dr. Edelstein. “Dan’s wife, who has not left the house since COVID-19 due to fear of the virus, said she felt completely safe being at Lake Forest Hospital.”

On Bastille Day, 10 days after the Fourth of July and his angioplasty, Dan finally reached 1,000 miles on his bike, and he remains physically active.