Clarksville councilman who survived heart attack warns others not to drive

Clarksville councilman who survived heart attack warns others not to drive (Image 1)

When Clarksville Ward 12 City Councilman Jeff Burkhart woke up around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning he immediately knew something was terribly wrong.

“I had pain in my left arm, I had the nausea, I had the sweats, I was pale and had some tightness in my chest,” he said.” I was pretty sure I needed some help but I was still denying I was having a heart attack.”

Burkhart, who lives alone, decided to drive himself to Gateway Medical Center about five minutes from his home.

When he arrived at the emergency room the staff discovered he was having a heart attack and he was taken into surgery.

Doctors said he had 100 percent blockage in one of his arteries and they implanted a stent to open the artery.

Burkhart said he did not consider himself at high risk for a heart attack because he exercises and has not had heart problems before.

“I exercise quite a bit to avoid this situation but here I am,” he said. “I have a family history and I think that plays a trump card in this.”

Burkhart was a fire fighter for more than 20 years and said his decision not to call 911 was the wrong one to make.

“I am a city councilman I get a card for being dumb,” he said. “Don't do as I do, do the right thing and call.”

He continued, “I was told by the hospital staff that I could have probably have gotten care 10 to 15 minutes sooner because they could have activated their system of getting cardiologist.”

Dr. Dave Amlicke is an interventional cardiologist at Gateway Medical Center. He treated Burkhart and said around 50 percent of heart attacks go undiagnosed.

He said women especially should pay attention to possible symptoms of a heart attack because they can be different from those for men.

“My experience with women is they are less likely to have the classic chest pressure and a little bit more likely to have other kinds of symptoms which could be vague and subtle, ” he said.

Dr. Amlicke said women may have a feeling of being tired during the day, being a little bit out of breath, felling under the weather or being sick to the stomach.

The symptoms can come on in one to two minutes.

“Anyone having the symptoms or loved ones and friends who notice someone else having the symptoms should get help immediately, “Dr. Amlicke said.

That is a message Councilman Burkhart said is crucial.

“Your body talks to you all the time whether your knee hurts, your elbow hurts or your chest hurts it is telling you something is going on.” He said. “You need to take a look at it and pay attention.”

Councilman Burkhart was released from the hospital on Wednesday.

He will undergo cardiac-rehabilitation, take medication and not be allowed to work out for a while, but he is expected to make a full recovery.

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