Paramedic Ignores His Own Heart Attack Symptoms

Phil Dietz has an endless list of jobs—Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director for Independence Fire Department, flight paramedic, cardiac life support educator, Vice President of Kentucky Ambulance Provider Association, and youth football coach.

When he was having the classic heart attack symptoms—he ignored them. At only 39, Phil felt it was too early to start worrying about a heart attack, even though he has a history of heart disease in his family.

“As a part of my job I teach people about how to treat patients having a heart attack,” said Phil. “In my 20-year career as a paramedic, I’ve treated many heart attacks. But when it was happening to me, I just thought I was run down.”

It is no wonder Phil thought he was run down. It was a big weekend in Northern Kentucky—Labor Day, which means Riverfest. At the time he was working as a flight paramedic, full time at Newport Fire Department and part time at Independence Fire Department.

“On Friday before Labor Day, I had just finished a flight shift and was working at Independence that day. I was extremely tired and achy—I just didn’t feel good. When I got home, I laid around all weekend. Then Sunday is a big day—you don’t not work on Sunday of Riverfest.”

That day was a busy day at the Fire Department. On Monday, he skipped a party to stay home and get caught up on his rest. Tuesday morning, he woke and did what he always did—went to work.

“I was sitting at my desk and all of a sudden I felt the typical symptoms of a heart attack—sick to my stomach, chest pain, sweaty,” described Phil. “But it was a busy day at the station, and we had to go on a call.”

While on the paramedic call, Phil felt the same symptoms and told his partner, “I think I am having a heart attack.” After caring for his patient, he went straight to the St. Elizabeth Emergency Department and they agreed—Phil was having a heart attack.

“I am healthy. I work out, lift weights, I eat fairly healthy at the firehouse—I didn’t think it would happen to me at 39,” said Phil. “I teach so many people about the symptoms of a heart attack and to call 911 immediately. I can’t believe I was the person who delayed and denied the symptoms.”

He was lucky that he survived that delay. Not everyone does. Phil now has a different message—talk to your doctor, don’t delay.

Phil added, “We see heart attacks taking place at a younger age now. Not only do you need to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, but you also can’t take them lightly.”

Phil also encourages everyone to exercise, watch your weight and get yearly check-ups. Talk about your health to your primary care physician and listen to what your body is telling you.

Phil trusts his care to the team at St. Elizabeth, “I work with St. Elizabeth’s Heart & Vascular Institute, and they’re on the leading edge of treating heart and stroke patients. I also know they’ll always be there for me.”

Learn more about heart attack symptoms.