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Holland man is ‘lucky and grateful’ to be alive after heart attack

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Holland man is 'lucky and grateful' to be alive after heart attack
Mitchell Boatman
 
| The Holland Sentinel

HOLLAND  — A local man is hoping his scary cardiac arrest story can serve as a warning of the seriousness of heart health. 

Harold Ruibal, 50, lives on the north side of Holland. He woke up one January morning with what he thought was a case of heartburn. 

After driving himself to Holland Hospital Urgent Care, Ruibal went into cardiac arrest and collapsed in the lobby. 

Staff shocked Ruibal twice with a defibrillator and performed CPR until an ambulance arrived to transport him to Holland Hospital. From there, an intervention was done to open a coronary artery.

“They proceeded to tell me that I died and came back to life,” Ruibal said. 

Now recovered, Ruibal is grateful to have more time to spend with his wife and children. The episode prompted him to adopt healthier habits, and he’s hoping it can encourage others to do the same.

“I thank God that I came through this,” he said. “People should eat healthy, stay safe. If you have that feeling of something coming on, rush to the hospital, call 911.” 

When Ruibal first started experiencing chest discomfort, he didn’t think much of it. 

“I never thought an issue like that would be a heart attack. It felt like heartburn,” he said. 

Holland Hospital’s Director of Cardiovascular Services Todd Knight said being aware of early symptoms of heart problems is extremely important. 

“That’s vital, for people to recognize the symptoms,” he said. “Chest pains, shortness of breath, arm discomfort, sweating. When someone is able to recognize their symptoms, they can get care faster.” 

Once Ruibal arrived at Urgent Care, things quickly escalated.

“When I walked through the door of urgent care, I dropped,” Ruibal said. “I thought I went through the process of checking in, putting down my name, but I didn’t do either. I fell flat on my face.

“After I entered, the next thing I remember is opening my eyes to (paramedics).”

As he traveled to Holland Hospital for treatment, Ruibal thought about his family. He says he feels lucky and grateful to still be alive. 

He thanks the medical staff involved and advises anyone experiencing heart issues to call 911 right away.

“If you think it’s urgent, think something’s coming soon, call somebody,” he said. “The sooner they can start working on you, the less effects you’re going to have.” 

Knight agrees, stating every second counts in heart-related matters. He also stressed the importance of calling emergency services rather than patients driving themselves.

“We’ve had stories of people driving themselves and coming to a situation of full cardiac arrest in the care, or they couldn’t get out of their own car to get into the emergency room,” Knight said. “When people call 911, that triggers a response. The team at the hospital is notified of the need for our expertise in the field.”

February is recognized as American Heart Month, designed to bring awareness to heart disease, the leading cause of death each year in the United States. 

To minimize risk for heart disease, Knight urges people to eat a healthy diet, exercise at least 30 minutes per day, eliminate smoking and decrease stress. 

For more information about heart disease, risk factors and healthy tips, visit CDC.gov/heartdisease.

— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at mboatman@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch



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