Heart attack survivor: Right place at the right time

4/24/2024 - Rockford, Illinois

  • Kiet Tran and daughter

    Kiet Tran and daughter

Kiet Tran, 51, was at an amusement park this past October with his wife and daughter as well as their family friend and her daughter. The family friend happened to be Dr. Martine Schultheis, a family medicine provider at OSF Medical Group – Primary Care on Villagreen View in Rockford.

“Our daughters met at a story time event at a local library and have been great friends ever since,” said Dr. Schultheis.

The friends were enjoying the food, sweet treats and fun rides throughout the day. After one of the rides, Kiet felt he pulled a muscle.

“We went on another rollercoaster ride and after that I felt I tweaked my back,” Kiet said. “I was having pain and as we were walking it kept getting worse.”

Kiet was sitting on a bench when he started to feel lightheaded and super nauseous.

“At first I believed Kiet that it was a pulled muscle, but when he started to feel nauseous, I knew we had to call 9-1-1 because he was having a heart attack,” said Dr. Schultheis. “We have a nerve in our abdomens called the vagus nerve and that activates lightheadedness and nausea when having a heart attack.”

Dr. Schultheis sprang into action getting the first aid workers over to Kiet to do an EKG and test his blood pressure.

“The EKG was abnormal, and my blood pressure was low. I wanted to just go home, but Dr. Schultheis said no, you are going to the hospital,” said Kiet.

Once at the hospital, Kiet learned he did indeed have a heart attack and found out he was diabetic. He was admitted to the hospital and had stents put in his heart.

“I grew up not going to doctors and I always thought I was healthy and knew my body,” said Kiet. “I had abnormal heart attack symptoms and I want others to learn from my story. Go to your doctor, get your yearly checkups, eat right and exercise.”

“Back pain and nausea aren’t the typical signs of a heart attack,” said Dr. Schultheis. “Women can tend to have abdominal pain and jaw pain. All of these are atypical, but it’s important to know these can be signs of a heart attack. Listen to your body and be proactive about your health.”

Kiet feels it was a blessing Dr. Schultheis was there that day and saved his life.

“I could have died that day,” he said. “Dr. Schultheis had been telling me for five years to go to the doctor. I should have listened sooner. She helps me with my health, and I am a car doctor who helps her with her car,” he said with a laugh.

“I am not a hero,” said Dr. Schultheis. “I wasn’t going to go that day, but it was clearly meant to be that I did. Also, when I realized Kiet was having a heart attack, we were right in front of the first aid building. It was all the right place at the right time.”