Dottie’s Story: Trip to gym lead to trip to ED, miracle recovery

Fairfield, Ohio, resident Dotti Wagner says that when she turned 60 a year ago, she decided to make a change and get into shape.


“I figured, ‘I’m still here; I better do something for myself,’” she says, laughing.

To help her with her resolution, Wagner’s husband bought her a gym membership and sessions with a trainer for Christmas (2011). Wagner began working out regularly with no problems for the first month.

“(One day) I did my usual 30 minutes on the treadmill, but I was so tired that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other,” she says. After a short break, Wagner said she started feeling better and tried to resume her workout, but when dizziness hit, she decided to stop.

“I went into the locker room and had to lie down on the floor and put my feet up,” she says. “I started to feel shooting pains in my left arm and across my chest.” Staff at the gym called an ambulance, and although she didn’t want to go to the hospital, the EMS squad insisted that she be checked out at West Chester Hospital. She called her husband to tell him what was happening.

“The last thing I remember was hanging up my phone and putting it in my pocket,” she says.

Seconds later, Wagner experienced a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest.

The EMS squad and emergency medicine physicians at West Chester Hospital worked for more than 40 minutes to get her heart beating again and to stabilize her.

Wagner’s interventional cardiologist, Imran Arif, MD, a UC Health physician, says the collaborative effort of teams in the hospital’s emergency department, cardiac catheterization lab and Intensive Care Unit ultimately saved her life.

“We stented Dotti’s artery, which was 100 percent blocked,” says Arif. “She also received hypothermia protocol to lower her body temperature and prevent brain swelling and secondary injuries.” The protocol is designed to protect comatose patients from the effects of oxygen deprivation after a cardiac arrest.

“I have not seen someone survive such a prolonged CPR effort, but she was a miracle,” says Arif.  “Perhaps, if it was not for the timely care provided at West Chester Hospital, Dotti wouldn’t have survived.”

She was only given a 5% chance to live, but now, more than a year after her heart attack and double bypass surgery, Wagner has fully recovered. Dr. Arif adds that individuals should always consult their primary care physicians before beginning a rigorous exercise regimen.

“I’m back to my job as a part-time educator at Xavier University and have been enjoying time with my family and just life in general,” she says. “The care I received at West Chester Hospital by the UC Health team was outstanding—from the emergency medicine physicians, to the nurses, to my heart doctors.”

“Most importantly, I want people to be aware of the symptoms of heart attack and to pay attention,” she says. “Symptoms can be so much different for women; if I was at home and not at the gym that day, I wouldn’t have called anyone for help.”

“I’m so thankful for being in the right place and the right time and for the team who helped save my life.”

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