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Sarasota woman has heart attack after delaying care due to COVID-19 concerns, urges others not

Sarasota County

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Bay hospitals continue to see patients delaying care because of COVID-19 concerns. For one Sarasota woman, avoiding the emergency room almost cost her her life.

Ginger Mace has always been healthy and active, but her family has a history of heart disease. She walks at least six miles every day to stay in tip top shape. During a walk back in May, she started feeling some chest pain. She dismissed it, but it came back the very next day while she was at work.

“I told a colleague at work and they said, well you need to go to the ER. I was like, I’m not going to the ER it is COVID right now, are you crazy? Look at me, I am perfectly healthy, there is nothing wrong with me,” said Mace.

Her colleague convinced her to see her primary care physician later that day.

“She gave me some nitro (Nitroglycerin) fortunately and set me up to see a cardiologist for a stress test. Unfortunately, I had a heart attack the next day so I never got to the stress test,” said Mace.

When the chest pains returned the day after she saw her doctor, Mace knew things were going downhill quickly.

“At this point, I knew I was having a heart attack. So I went to the ER and they were amazing. Truly incredible. They got me right back immediately, just started taking my vital signs, getting my history, starting the IVs, they did an EKG and it did in fact show that I was having a heart attack,” she explained.

Interventional cardiologist Dr. Pareena Bilkoo treated Mace at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and was aware of her concerns of coming to the hospital because of the pandemic.

“If Ginger had come into the office complaining about a little bit of chest pain and she had some EKG changes, we probably would’ve taken her straight to the heart Cath Lab and done her angiogram prior to her actually having a heart attack,” said Dr. Bilkoo.

Dr. Bilkoo says a lot of patients have been avoiding the hospital due to coronavirus concerns. She assures patients it is safe.

“The ER and the hospital, they are safer places for you to be evaluated rather than at an urgent care or at your even your doctor’s office,” said Dr. Bilkoo. “You don’t know what other patients are coming through there. Here, everyone is screened, we know which patients have COVID, which do not, and everyone is wearing protective masks and gear,” she explained.

The cardiologist says worse patient outcomes are result of the delayed care.

“They are having heart attacks, congestive heart failure, strokes, arrhythmias, pneumonias are getting missed, urinary tract infections are getting missed. In our elderly population, if you miss an infection, they go into sepsis, so when we see them they are very sick,” said Dr. Bilkoo. “You might as well come in, get checked out, and if you are good then you get to go home,” she continued.

Fortunately for Mace, she was treated at the hospital just in time.

“It was really scary to be in that position and to wait so long. I was having a big heart attack by the time I got to the hospital. I was in crisis and I may not have made it if I would’ve waited even just moments more,” said Mace. “It might be a very different outcome whether I wouldn’t be here right now or not or whether my quality of life would have been diminished. Any of those things can happen when you wait,” she continued.

After seeking care, Mace underwent open-heart surgery. She is now back to exercising and enjoying time with her grandchildren.

“If you are having any kind of symptoms at all, don’t dismiss them and don’t be afraid. We are in the midst of this COVID crisis right now, but COVID doesn’t matter if you’re dead. I wouldn’t be here right now and I can tell you firsthand, they are taking precautions. It is safe,” said Mace.

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