Do You Know the Signs?

It started as slight uncomfortable pressure in his chest the evening of August 28, 2019.

Nothing too serious. He thought perhaps it was indigestion from his supper. He took one aspirin with two Tums.

And then, Mark Mather began sweating, and the pressure didn’t subside. He and his wife Becky decided it was time to visit the Emergency Department at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics.


“When I arrived in the ED, the discomfort was greatly reduced,” recalls Mark. “In fact, I apologized for taking up their time. ED Provider Beth Sadewasser assured me that I’d made the right decision to come get checked out  and I was immediately taken to an emergency room for tests.” 


Mark was evaluated with blood tests and an EKG. Beth consulted with a cardiologist confirming that Mark had indeed had a heart attack and he was transported by ambulance immediately to Dubuque.

At 7:30 a.m. on August 29, Mark had an angiogram revealing he had partial blockage of two coronary arteries, which was corrected with the placement of two stents. “I’m so thankful I knew the warning signs and went to the ED at GMHC right away,” said Mark.

After one night in the hospital, and a week of recovery, Mark began cardiac rehabilitation at GMHC three days a week for the next six weeks. “The entire staff was very helpful and caring during my rehab. They thoroughly answered all of my questions and worked closely with my cardiologist in Dubuque. The level of professionalism and knowledge was very comforting,” said Mark. “GMHC rehab helped heal my heart, giving me more energy for the activities I enjoy.”

Cardiac rehab patient Mark Mather with Respiratory Therapist Amanda Miller.

Amanda Miller, one of Mark’s therapist commented, “My job as a therapist at GMHC is so rewarding. It is great to inspire patients like Mark to work hard, knowing that together as a staff, we make a real difference in our patients’ health.”

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke combined) kills about 2,300 a day. Obesity in both youth and adults is at an all-time high, youth are being diagnosed with heart disease earlier than ever and people just ZIP codes apart can live 25 years less than their neighbors because of disparities in health. American Heart Month is vital for awareness, but the American Heart Association urges people to take care of their hearts year-round. 

Consider the facts:

  • Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart attacks affect more people every year than the population of Dallas, Texas.
  • 72% of Americans don’t consider themselves at risk for heart disease
  • 83% believe that heart attacks can be prevented but aren’t motivated to do anything.
  • And 58% put no effort into improving their heart health.

While science is advancing medicine in exciting new ways, unhealthy lifestyle choices combined with rising obesity rates in both kids and adults have hindered progress fighting heart disease.

The good news is that heart disease is preventable in most cases with healthy choices, which include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week and getting regular checkups. 

Other than being older, Mark had no other risk factors for a heart attack.


“Knowing the warning signs and symptoms may have saved my life,” says Mark. “I knew to get checked out, and I’m very pleased with the emergency services I received at GMHC. Our community is fortunate to have the hospital right here.”


Heart Attack Symptoms

CHEST DISCOMFORT: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

DISCOMFORT IN OTHER AREAS OF THE UPPER BODY: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

SHORTNESS OF BREATH: with or without chest discomfort.

OTHER SIGNS: may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. 

Stroke Symptoms: Spot a stroke F.A.S.T.

FACE DROOPING: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

ARM WEAKNESS: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH DIFFICULTY: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

TIME TO CALL 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Cardiac Arrest Symptoms

SUDDEN LOSS OF RESPONSIVENESS: No response to tapping on shoulders.

NO NORMAL BREATHING: The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.



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