One Woman's Story: Rebuilding Strength After a Heart Attack

Your life is put into perspective when all that’s standing between you and death is the level of precision and collaboration amongst your healthcare providers.

“They knew what they were doing and were all very confident,” Beverly Akins said. “I can’t say enough for South Shore Hospital’s EMT’s, the emergency room, and for Doctor Joshua Arkin.”

The mission of South Shore Health is to bring together like-minded people who work as one toward a common goal of providing exceptional care throughout a patient’s entire procedure and rehabilitation.

Beverly Atkins
Beverly Atkins with her Care Team

At the age of 79, Akins, of Braintree, was experiencing fatigue and discomfort along her carotid artery after routine blood work at a Weymouth doctor’s office. An on-call physician became concerned and performed an electrocardiogram (EKG) which showed Akins was presenting signs of an active heart attack.

“I felt tired and I really didn’t feel good, but I couldn’t say this is the problem or that is the problem,” Akins said.

It’s not unusual for a woman suffering a heart attack to present symptoms that are somewhat vague, according to Lisa O’Brien, BSN, RN at South Shore Health. “Beverly experienced neck pain and jaw pain. Women don’t typically have chest pain like men do. They may have fatigue, shortness of breath.”

Akins was transported from the doctor’s office to South Shore Hospital by an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team. It was determined that two aspirin and continual evaluation, while en route to the Emergency Department, would be necessary to decrease symptom severity.

Collaboration among South Shore Hospital’s emergency medical team and EMS commenced as cardiac specialists, including Dr. Arkin, awaited Akins arrival.

“I was on a stretcher coming in from the ambulance and doctor Arkin came up. There was a group of people there and they worked with me right away,” Akins recalled.

Immediate tests showed four blockages in Akins major arteries, requiring emergency surgery. Four stents were inserted and one balloon pump administered, as it was believed she wouldn’t survive a bypass. Once stable, Akins was transported to Tufts Medical Center’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for further monitoring.

Akins was released from Tufts about a week later and began receiving care from South Shore Health’s Home Care Services. A remote home monitoring system was used to send vitals via a phone application. Home care services helped Akins stay independent and reduced the need for visits to the doctor. Akins lauded her physical therapist, Marla Junior as being an exceptional care giver who left a lasting impression. “She did her homework, she would check different things: ‘let’s check that medicine,’ she would call doctor Arkin and say ‘what do you think,’” Akins said.

Once Akins could perform activities of daily living without difficulty, she transitioned to South Shore Health’s Cardiac Rehab. Rehabilitation assists in prevention based education and in building a tolerance to physical activity: weight lifting, walking, stepping, etc., while under medical supervision. “They have a treadmill here, they have a stepper, and you’re being monitored the whole time. So I feel safe, if I went to a fitness club they wouldn’t know what they’re doing as much,” Akins said.

Cardiac rehab spans over an eight to 12 week period, depending on the severity of the heart procedure. Akins says the team is all about getting you back on your feet. “Everybody who works with us is fantastic, they are truly fantastic,” said Akins. “They watch you; they know what you’re doing. It’s not a job for these people because they love their job.” 

Akins, who studied with a former Radio City Musical Hall Rockette, is now on her way to putting her tap shoes back on and dancing her way back to good health.