One week after collapsing on his patio and nearly dying of sudden cardiac arrest, Chris Goering was back to his work and his family without skipping a beat.
by The Iowa Clinic on Tuesday, January 22, 2019
May 7 was a normal morning for Chris Goering. The Grimes small business owner was going about his regular routine, getting his employees set up to stain decks and fences that day.
His wife, Ashley, was sitting out on the back patio, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. But something was bothering Chris. All morning, he'd been experiencing pain — in his shoulder, neck and jaw — all on the right side. After finishing up his morning routine around 8am, Chris went out back to tell Ashley about it.
Seconds after describing his pain, Chris collapsed, and everything went dark.
"I have no memory of this morning at all. I guess I was complaining of pain, but I just went about my business like I normally would," Goering says. "It was quick and sudden. I told my wife I just didn't feel good. Then I was unconscious."
Indebted to the Emergency Responders Who Kept Him Alive
Timing is everything during a heart attack. The brain can only survive without oxygen for up to six minutes. Unless CPR is started within minutes of cardiac arrest, the brain begins to die.
Goering went 30 minutes without breathing.
Fortunately for Chris, his wife acted quickly. As soon as he went down, Ashley dialed 9-1-1 and started applying CPR. The Grimes Police were on the scene in minutes and continued the compressions. The paramedics weren't far behind, speeding from their Johnston fire station within six to eight minutes — critical timing for his survival.
The emergency responders rushed Chris to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in downtown Des Moines, continuing the CPR all the way and trying to get him breathing again. They had to use the defibrillators multiple times to keep him alive on the trip from the western suburbs.
"He really didn't have any time without CPR. The police were trained in CPR, so he was getting it until the paramedics arrived, and they continued the CPR," says Dr. A. Nasser Khan, a cardiologist at The Iowa Clinic who worked on Goering when he came in. "When you're not breathing, the lack of blood flow can cause brain damage. He did not have that because people were doing CPR right away from the very beginning."
Grateful for Dr. Khan and the Cardiac Alert Team Who Saved His Life
Goering showed up to Iowa Methodist alive, but still unconscious.
"When someone comes in with a heart attack, we have to open up the blocked artery within 90 minutes. The sooner we can do that, the better the prognosis. So we really moved fast," Dr. Khan says. "We got him onto the cath table as soon as possible, opened up the blocked artery and put a stent in. Everything worked like magic. Everything was back to normal."
So normal that Goering didn't even realize what had happened when he finally came to on Wednesday morning, two days after his heart attack. His heart was functioning again. His muscles were revived. He checked out okay on Thursday and was released from the hospital. On Monday morning — one week after suffering a heart attack — Goering was back to work and back to his normal morning routine.
"Honestly, I have felt pretty good the entire time since waking up, so I was doing pretty normal stuff the next week," he says. "When they put the stent in, they went up through my groin. I have no marks — no opening, no incisions, no bypass stuff. There's nothing on my body that shows I went through any of this at all."
"As a matter of fact, the worst thing once I came to was that my chest had a ring on it from the CPR machine they used to compress me. And that dang thing fractured my ribs! It was very painful for five, six weeks, but that's all gone now," he adds.
Appreciative of All the Care and Support After His Heart Attack
An angiogram a month later confirmed Goering's feelings. He was doing much better than expected.
Initially, Dr. Khan was concerned about a second artery that was 80 percent blocked. He thought it would require another stent. But after the diagnostic heart test, Dr. Khan decided it wasn't necessary.
"I saw him for a follow-up in the clinic and he was doing great. He's back to his usual, normal activity," Dr. Khan says. "The thing that's very important now is his lifestyle. It's the right time to get him on track to lifestyle modifications because that's the key to preventing another heart attack."
At just 46, Goering's youth is a key to his recovery. But it's also a concern that he suffered a heart attack so young. Upon reflection, it wasn't so unexpected, Goering says. He has a family history of high cholesterol and took medication for five years to control that and his triglyceride levels. He stopped taking his meds about a year before his heart attack due to some painful side effects.
"So this is the part where I have to have my hand slapped a little bit," he says. "This is not what a doctor wants to hear, but it never really made me feel any different — other than the numbers dropping. I don't know, maybe I could've skipped all this if I stayed on them."
With the support of The Iowa Clinic cardiology team and his wife, Goering is much more diligent about his overall health now. He's taking medication again and not feeling the side effects that caused him to stop the first time around.
He's also following Dr. Khan's advice about lifestyle changes — eating more fish and lean meats, shedding a few pounds and being more physically active. Running two businesses helps with the last one.
"I'm very involved in how I handle my businesses. It's not real labor, but it's definitely active," says Goering of his deck and fence painting and custom blinds businesses. "I'm always doing something — running from place to place, in and out of homes, up and down ladders, communicating with customers, things like that."
Thankful for More Time With His Family
Goering counts himself lucky that his heart attack happened at home, while his wife was there, and not out on the job. On that particular Monday morning, at that moment, he had someone there to help.
"I could've easily been gone and alone — driving or on a deck — and I'd be dead," he says. "I have two kids — both boys. When you have seven-year-old and three-year-old boys, you gotta be on your toes. I'm super happy that I'm able to see my family every day, play with the boys like I always have and do the things I've always done."
Life is back to normal, but May 7 will never be. Instead, it will be a reminder for Goering to feel grateful for being alive, for his family and for all the people who helped save his life.
"May 7 was the date I almost died. The speed of my wife, the paramedics and the hospital — and how everybody worked together — it's why I'm alive," he says. "Most people would be dead now. Everybody did their jobs and did great. That's what it boils down to. That's the story."