“I always eat right. I exercise. I don’t eat processed foods. A heart attack wasn’t even on my mind,” Bolis says.
As regular visitors to Kent County, Maryland, Bolis and his wife, Marian Sherwood-Bolis, keep their Catalina Morgan sailboat at Worton Creek Marina in Chestertown. They were on the boat in the marina on the afternoon of Saturday, July 6, when everything changed. “I’d just gotten over pneumonia,” says Bolis. “But I was hot, sweating and I just didn’t feel good. I knew something wasn’t right.”
Even after taking a nap and having something to eat, he felt his condition was worsening. He was still sweating, but now he noticed an abnormal, slow pulse. At the same time, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Thunder, lightning and rain pounded northern Kent County and throughout the Mid-Shore that evening.
The Bolis’ called 911 around 8 p.m. The emergency medical technicians and paramedics arrived swiftly and began to assess Bolis’ condition. His heart rate was 40 beats per minute. He was rushed to the Emergency Department at University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.
The Emergency Department team assessed Bolis’ condition and immediately identified that he was having a STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction). They initiated a STEMI protocol (set of treatments and interventions) and consulted the on-call cardiologist at Shore Medical Center at Easton.
Bolis needed immediate transport, but unfortunately, helicopters were grounded due to weather. A critical care transport team was contacted, but their estimated time of arrival was too long. Time is heart muscle and every minute counts for patients experiencing a heart attack. In order to expedite transport to the Cardiac Intervention Center in Easton, a local Emergency Medical System transport unit was contacted. A Chestertown Emergency Department nurse accompanied Bolis during the transport to Easton.
The Cardiac Cath Lab team was ready and waiting for his arrival. During their initial contact with Bolis, they discovered his heart rate had dipped to just 30 beats per minute. The team immediately got to work on opening Bolis’ main artery, which they discovered was 100 percent blocked. Dr. Gabriel Sardi inserted a stent to open the artery.
“I joke that Dr. Sardi, since his first name is Gabriel, is my angel,” Bolis says.
Following surgery, Bolis says he felt like a brand new man. “I was kayaking a week before this happened. It made me realize a heart attack can happen to anyone. I’m happy to be alive,” Bolis says.
Bolis experienced STEMI, which occurs in about 15 to 20 percent of all heart attack patients. Before the Shore Medical Center at Easton’s designation as a Cardiac Intervention Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) in February 2018, patients in the region experiencing STEMI heart attacks had to be transferred by ambulance or helicopter to hospitals in Annapolis, Salisbury, Seaford, Del., or University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
Travel times often exceeded the desired target time of less than 90 minutes, and optimally within 60 minutes. Accepting heart attack patients from the three hospitals and four emergency departments operated by UM SRH, the CIC in Easton is a life-saving medical resource for residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.
“Our ability to provide this high-level of care to our community is completely dependent on ensuring that these services are available 24/7, 365 by our dedicated CIC staff, who are always on call to respond within 30 minutes of a STEMI emergency,” says Gary Jones, director of the Heart and Vascular Center at UM SRH.
Bolis credits fast action times, good decisions and excellent inpatient and outpatient care and follow up with his positive outcome and continued good health.
“I was very confident during this whole event — I never thought I was going to die. I knew I was in good hands,” he says. “If the Cardiac Intervention Center in Easton wasn’t there, I probably would have died because all the helicopters were grounded that night due to the severe thunderstorms.”
Bolis was so happy with his care — from the EMTs and paramedics who cared for him during the initial transport and the emergency department staff and nurses who cared for him at UM SMC at Chestertown to the Cardiac Cath Lab team — that he and his wife made thank-you baskets for Dr. Sardi and for the care team at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, and delivered them in person. He also donated a dinghy to the Kent and Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad.
Today, Bolis is back to living his best life, with slight changes to his medical regimen. He’s still kayaking, sailing, getting exercise and eating right, and he recently returned home from a trip to see the fall foliage in Vermont, where he and his wife followed the Mt. Olga Trail in Molly Stark State Park to its summit. “I’m doing great,” Bolis says. “And I feel great.”
During a MIEMSS follow-up survey this past spring, UM Shore Regional Health was issued four-year accreditation as a Cardiac Intervention Center. The CIC also recently received the Mission: Lifeline® Silver Plus STEMI Receiving Center Quality Achievement Award and the Mission: Lifeline® NSTEMI Bronze Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks.
“This is the first year that we have been eligible to receive AHA awards and we have received two of them — an excellent testament to our commitment to our communities and to the skill of our team,” Jones says.
The Bolis’ are looking forward to continuing to live their best lives, knowing that without the help of dedicated staff from the Kent Rescue Squad, UM SMC at Chestertown and the CIC in Easton, Gary Bolis may not have been here today.