Ralph Bamberger Find a Location Find a Doctor Heart & Vascular Advanced Heart Failure Management Center Arrhythmia Center Diagnostic Testing Treatments/Procedures Cardiology Heart Attack Care Minimally Invasive Procedures Cardio-Oncology Cardiac Rehab Clinical Research Diagnostic Services Heart Surgery Florence Wormald Heart & Vascular Institute Building Patient Success Stories Prevention & Wellness AHA Training Center CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit Hands-only CPR Healing Hearts Women's Support Group Health Disparities and Cardiovascular Disease Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tips My Heart Rocks Take Time For Your Heart Women and Heart Disease Tobacco Cessation Freedom from Smoking Nicotine Medication Nicotine Replacement Tobacco Cessation Therapy Success Stories Tobacco Cessation Resources Youth E-cigarette and Vaping Epidemic Structural Heart & Valve Center Aortic Valve Replacement Mitral Valve Surgery Your Hospital Stay Care After Heart Surgery Intensive Care for Heart Conditions Nurses with Heart Care Expertise Partners in Heart Care Transitional Care Units Back to Golf After Heart Attack and Cardiac Rupture At 80, Ralph Bamberger plays golf three times a week. But he almost didn’t get to see his 80th birthday. Two years ago, Ralph felt exhausted and not himself for about a week before he experienced symptoms that he thought he should take seriously. He was getting ready to head upstairs to bed after an active day where he played 20 holes of golf. But he called upstairs to his wife, Jean, to say he was really not feeling well, and that he was calling 911. Then he collapsed. “I heard him hit the floor,” says Jean. “I came downstairs and saw the phone was dangling. I put an aspirin in his mouth, and called 911 back to make sure they had gotten the call.” The squad quickly transported Ralph to St. Elizabeth Edgewood. The news was grim. As Ralph puts it: “I blew a hole in my heart.” The physicians call it a cardiac rupture. It’s a complication that can happen after a heart attack, and it is very often fatal. Cardiac surgeon Victor Schmelzer, MD, was called in and after reviewing the case, told Jean and her son that the situation was dire and that they had two choices – opt for a risky operation to patch the hole, or do nothing and accept that Ralph would very likely die. They chose surgery. Dr. Schmelzer performed the complicated surgery in the wee hours. Surgery included a triple bypass to address clogged arteries that had caused the heart attack, as well as a procedure to patch the ruptured part of the heart. Jean says she was grateful that they live so close to the hospital, and that Dr. Schmelzer was available to operate. “When I thanked Dr. Schmelzer for saving his life, he said, ‘I did my job as a surgeon, but the Man upstairs wasn’t ready for him.’” In retrospect, Ralph did have warning signs before his heart attack. He noticed some skipped heartbeats. He had been extremely tired for about a week before, not being able to finish his golf games and even sleeping in his car before going to work. One night he experienced a bout of severe vomiting, which he attributed to bad food. All of these things are symptoms of acute coronary syndrome, which can precede a heart attack by as much as a week. In Ralph’s case, ignoring those symptoms could have cost him his life, but happily, he is back playing golf and mowing the grass, albeit a bit slower than before. “I would give them (St. Elizabeth) an A+. That’s about all I can say,” he concludes. Heart & Lung Surgery Services at St. Elizabeth For more information about Heart & Lung Surgery at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute, click here.