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Back on the field after a heart attack at 30

Patient Spotlight April 29, 2015 By Main Line Health

Although heart disease is the number one killer of women, it can be easy to ignore the warning signs or assume it could never happen to you. But Jaclyn McGlone, age 30, is proof that heart problems can affect anyone, at any age.

When it came to her health, McGlone did everything right. She played coed soccer, worked out five times a week, and coached a girls’ soccer team. The Broomall resident’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels were normal. By most standards, she was the picture of good health.

However, one evening in September 2014, McGlone began experiencing chest pain, jaw pain, and weakness in her arm.

“I thought I’d overdone it playing soccer with the guys,” she recalls. “Although now I know I was having the classic signs of a heart attack, that never crossed my mind.”

The next morning, McGlone collapsed while coaching her soccer team.

Expert Care for a Massive Attack

With no other adults nearby, McGlone’s young players raced to another field for help. When emergency personnel arrived, they resuscitated McGlone and rushed her by ambulance to Bryn Mawr Hospital. McGlone would later learn that she’d suffered a massive heart attack, which caused her heart to stop completely. The reason still isn’t clear, but thankfully, she was in the right place for medical care.

“Bryn Mawr Hospital is a designated chest pain center. We have strict protocols for treatment, and everyone is well-versed in their roles,” explains Francis Day, MD, interventional cardiologist.

Dr. Day and his team immediately brought McGlone to Bryn Mawr’s cardiac catheterization lab. There, he opened McGlone’s coronary artery, which was completely blocked, and placed stents to keep it open. Still, her condition was highly unstable. Her lungs were having difficulty oxygenating her blood and were filling with fluid.

“Not only did Jaclyn have a massive heart attack, she went into full cardiac arrest,” says Dr. Day. “A stent alone was not enough to save her life.”

Coordinated Response Proves Lifesaving

Dr. Day contacted Konstadinos Plestis, MD, system chief of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at Main Line Health to assist. Dr. Plestis and his team at Lankenau Medical Center rushed to Bryn Mawr Hospital to perform a complex procedure that connected McGlone’s heart and lungs to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.

“The machine acts as life support, completely taking over the functions of the heart and lungs,” explains Dr. Plestis. “Without it, she would have died.”

When McGlone was stable, Dr. Plestis transferred her to Lankenau Medical Center. There, he began an advanced therapy called therapeutic hypothermia, which involves cooling the body to preserve brain function. A dedicated nurse monitored McGlone in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU).

McGlone remained on life support for about a week. During that time, Dr. Plestis slowly decreased her ECMO support until her heart and lungs were able to function on their own. Even then, it took McGlone a long time to wake up. Once she did, she struggled with mental and physical limitations. Her doctors were unsure whether she would recover completely.

Back on the Field

After weeks in the hospital, McGlone was transferred to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, where she received physical, occupational, and speech therapy for three weeks. Slowly, she began to improve. “I finally started feeling like myself again,” she says.

Since then, McGlone’s recovery has taken off. Only three months after she collapsed, McGlone was back coaching soccer and working her IT job. Her cardiologist at Lankenau Medical Center, Steven Domsky, MD, who began managing her condition during her hospital stay, cleared her to begin cardiac rehab, the final step in her recovery. She attends rehab weekly at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

“Jaclyn’s been extremely active in her care,” says Dr. Domsky. “She’s always pushing to do more.”

Today, McGlone is living a normal life and enjoying time with her husband, Jason.

“The fact that Jaclyn is alive—let alone that her mind is fully intact—is a miracle,” says Dr. Plestis. “Her outcome distinguishes the Lankenau Heart Institute team at each hospital who cared for her. It speaks to the leadership, team approach, and absolute coordination of care that allows us to provide exceptional heart care at all four of our acute care hospitals.”

McGlone adds, “I’m getting used to life after a heart attack and feeling better in my body every day. I’m so grateful for my care. I was given this amazing gift—a second chance. I’m thankful to be here to tell my story.”