Cardiac Patient's Road from Heart Attack to Set the Pace 5k

Matt Dobrowski walks on the treadmill and slowly creeps from walking to a jogging pace. That act doesn’t seem like much for a 44-year-old who looks to be in great health and enjoys an active lifestyle.

Matt knows he has some work to do as he prepares for the Set the Pace Road Race 5K, which benefits cardiovascular programs at South Shore Hospital, in June.

However, Matt does not take his fitness for granted anymore. Six months ago, Matt suffered a heart attack due to a 99 percent blockage of his left anterior descending (LAD) artery, more commonly known as a “widowmaker” heart attack.

“I went from being a healthy person to taking several medications a day,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at, but I’m competitive and I always want more.”

Matt said he worked out several times a week but was a smoker, which is one of the greatest risk factors for heart and vascular disease in both men and women. Several days after Christmas, Matt returned home from a kickboxing class. His wife, Pauline, was upstairs folding laundry when she heard a loud thump on the first floor. Pauline came downstairs to find her husband unresponsive. Pauline, who was a practicing lifeguard in college, performed CPR until first responders arrived on the scene.

“I was in disbelief,” she said. “I remember thinking that this can’t be happening.”

David Denmark, MD, a cardiologist, placed a stent in Matt’s blocked artery when he arrived at South Shore Hospital, but Matt was not out of the woods as the damage from the heart attack was quite severe.

“He had a 20 percent ejection fraction (EF) indicating his heart was not able to pump all the oxygenated blood forward, which could affect his heart’s electrical system, putting him at risk of having lethal arrhythmias,” said Joanne Privett, MSN, RN. “He was in danger of sudden death. He was in bad shape.”

Matt’s health slowly came back to form after a short stay in the Critical Care Unit. When he was discharged, he was sent home with a Life-Vest to monitor his heart rhythm and provide defibrillation if any dangerous arrhythmia occurred. Matt continues monitored exercise and cardiac education with the Cardiac Rehabilitation team at South Shore Hospital. He is slowly getting back to running and has quit smoking. His heart function has improved with EF at normal levels.

“He’s doing all the right things,” said Privett. “He’s really improved a lot.”

Matt, Pauline, and their three children will be running the Set the Pace Road Race at South Shore Medical Center on June 9. The proceeds benefit patients, like Matt, who are looking to get back to doing what they love doing after a cardiac event.

“I really attribute his recovery to the amazing care that we got,” said Pauline.

“Every nurse, every doctor was just so incredible. They were kind and they treated us like family.”

“We owe them everything.”