Pelzer native Dr. Daniel Koontz, 59, had always felt like the picture of good health. His blood pressure and cholesterol were normal, he exercised regularly, and he had been a physician for 27 years.
“I hadn't missed a day of school or work since I was in grade school back in the 60’s," Koontz told a group of more than 180 cardiologists, heart and stroke experts and emergency medical technicians at the 2012 South Carolina Heart and Stroke Care Alliance forum.
But on January 9th of this year, while finishing the day’s paperwork in his office at AnMed Health Palmetto Family Medicine, he felt his chest tighten up. After several minutes of unrelenting pain, he realized he was having a STEMI, otherwise known as a heart attack. Luckily there was a co-worker there who called the nearby rescue squad.
The lead EMT that night, Victoria, had been a patient of Koontz’s since her childhood “I know that situation had to have made her more than a little bit nervous. But I couldn’t have asked for more professional and competent care than she gave that day.”
When he arrived at the emergency room, personnel already had the EKG and catheter ready and the patient was rushed to the cath lab. “After a few minutes, I knew that the clot had evaporated, because the pressure in my chest was magically relieved."
"This was a lesion that, just 20 years ago when I started my practice, probably would have killed me," said Koontz. "Yet 21 minutes from the time we hit the ER doors at AnMed Health, I felt like I could walk out of the hospital. Though my doctor probably wouldn't have agreed with that," he joked.
Since that day the family medicine physician has become more aggressive in treating lipid disorders and is also more persistent in counseling lifestyle change (nutrition, exercise and smoking cessation) with his patients.
One of the main lessons he’s taken from this experience is to pay attention to family history. Both his father and brother have suffered from heart problems.
Koontz told the forum attendees that, amazingly, there was virtually no damage to his heart thanks to the excellent care he received that night. He feels like his normal, pre-heart attack self. “That to me," he said, "is the miracle of what you all do.”