Dennis Dalton

Heart Attack Survivor Aspires to be American Ninja Warrior

At 43 years old, Dennis Dalton doesn’t let much slow him down – not even a heart attack.

November 2, 2017, was a typical Thursday for Dennis. He worked all day and met a small group he helps to train for obstacle course race training – think American Ninja Warrior. After a tough workout, he wasn’t feeling great and thought he may have indigestion, but his girlfriend Jen knew exactly what it was.

“I am 43, I run 120 miles a month, I exercise regularly, my diet’s good, I’ve never tried a drug, and I’ve never tried a cigarette. I was in denial that I could be having a heart attack, even though I knew that I had a big family history of heart disease. I thought I had another 20 years to worry about that,” said Dennis.

Dennis definitely was in denial – it took some convincing to get him to go to the Emergency Room. But by 9 p.m. he did, and as soon a nurse saw his EKG, things started moving quickly.

Dennis described his experience at St. Elizabeth Florence, “After the EKG, I was immediately taken down the hall into a room and 10 people were there waiting for me. The ER doctor introduced himself and let me know I was having a heart attack, they were stabilizing me and sending me by ambulance to the Cath Lab at St. Elizabeth Edgewood.”

St. Elizabeth Edgewood has the sophisticated equipment and medical team on call to open a blocked artery. While Dennis was being transported, the physician and nurses were being called in to meet him there, and the cath lab was being readied.

The ambulance ride to St Elizabeth Edgewood takes just a few minutes, but Dennis went into cardiac arrest on the way there. EMS personnel had to use the defibrillator three times to restore normal rhythm to Dennis’ heart.

“At first I thought I was just passing out, but then I knew what was happening. I could feel the sensation and knew they were going to have to shock me again,” Dennis said.

Upon arrival at St. Elizabeth Edgewood he was taken directly to the Cath Lab. Cardiologist Dr. Kevin Miller and his team were ready and waiting for him to arrive.

“Dr. Miller immediately began working on me, but I remember Kim the most. Kim knew I was scared and she made sure to stay in my line of sight the entire time. She just kept telling me to breathe,” recalls Dennis.

Dr. Miller cleared Dennis’ left anterior descending (LAD) artery – they call it the widow maker. From the time he walked into St. Elizabeth Florence, to the opening of his artery took less than 70 minutes – well under the national benchmark of 120 minutes. A day and half later, Dennis walked out of the hospital on his own.

“Without Jen, the EMS team and St. Elizabeth, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Dennis.

Now Dennis has a message he wants to share, “Have a good relationship with your doctor, even if you’re not sick. Get checked regularly, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. Most importantly, don’t take life for granted. Make a positive impact and life with purpose.”

Although not medically cleared yet to resume training, in January Dennis submitted his video application for the next season of American Ninja Warrior.

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Learn more about cardiology services at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute.