Out of the blue, Vicki Amick started passing out. Once it happened in the middle of an arts and crafts store. Another time she lost consciousness at home. “That time it was really scary because I vomited while I was unconscious,” recalls Mrs. Amick, who is 60. “Fortunately my husband was there and knew what to do.”
Following that incident, Mrs. Amick’s husband took her to Northwestern Memorial where her cardiac, vascular and neurologic systems were evaluated. Marla A. Mendelson, MD, cardiologist on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial, medical director of the Program for Women’s Cardiovascular Health at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and associate professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Feinberg, recommended a stress test. Based on the results, Dr. Mendelson recommended a diagnostic cardiac catheterization, a procedure that examines blood flow to the heart.
The cardiac catheterization showed that Mrs. Amick had coronary artery disease. Her left anterior descending artery was 90 percent blocked. The reduced blood flow through the blocked artery was causing her to pass out.
Coronary artery disease occurs through a slow process called atherosclerosis when deposits of fats, cholesterol and calcium buildup inside an artery. The buildup of these deposits, called plaque, narrows the artery and decreases blood flow and oxygen to the heart. Physicians can perform coronary stenting in which a small tube is placed into the artery to keep it open and restore normal blood flow when plaque narrows an artery. In January of 2010, Mrs. Amick underwent coronary stenting performed by Keith H. Benzuly, MD, interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of Medicine at Feinberg.
“Although it was a big relief to have an answer to my problem and to have it fixed, I was still discouraged,” says Mrs. Amick. After the surgery, Mrs. Amick worked with nurses at Northwestern Memorial who helped her understand that she did not have to be defined by her disease. With encouragement from her healthcare team, Mrs. Amick turned to her love of painting. “Art allows me to lose track of myself, to relax my mind and body, which is important to heal,” says Mrs. Amick.
Mrs. Amick attends Northwestern Memorial’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program three times a week to do both cardiovascular and strength training exercises. “I’m amazing even myself,” she says. “I can walk five miles now without having to stop and rest. Being in cardiac rehabilitation reminds me how good it feels to be healthy.”