Winter 2009
Brought Back to Life
Brought Back to Life

At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Westport resident Burton Stuttman, then 73, was working on his home computer one day last spring, when he suddenly broke into a cold sweat. He felt bloated, like he “needed to burp,” he says. “The bloated sensation didn’t go away after a few minutes, and the cold sweat was unusual, so I called my doctor.”

Based on the description of his symptoms, the office receptionist quickly relayed the message to Burton’s primary care physician, Jay Horn, MD, in Westport. Dr. Horn advised Burton to call 9-1-1 immediately. “He emphatically stated that I should have the ambulance take me to Bridgeport Hospital. This was a precautionary measure in case I needed an angioplasty (see images and “Glossary,”), which Bridgeport Hospital could provide,” says Burton.

Burton hung up the phone and relayed the conversation to his wife, Dora. Alarmed about her husband’s condition, Dora raced to hand Burton an aspirin to chew while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. “All the while I continued to feel nothing too serious, and thought this was all a waste of time,” he remembers. “When the ambulance came, I met the medical team and then I walked outside, climbed on a gurney and was hooked up to a heart monitor,” he says.

While in the ambulance, Burton was aware of his surroundings. “I heard the sirens and the team talking on the radio, communicating with Bridgeport Hospital about my condition so the doctors would be ready for me when I got there,” he says. (See “Why You Should Always Call an Ambulance,”.) “As we pulled into the Bridgeport Hospital Emergency Department driveway, I heard someone say, ‘It looks like an MI,’ (myocardial infarction—see “Glossary,”). Then I passed out.”

Dora remembers that night like it was yesterday. “I’m glad I didn’t realize how serious his condition was at the time, but Burton’s heart actually stopped just as we turned in to the hospital driveway,” she says. “I was riding in the front, next to the driver, and I could hear parts of what was going on in the rear of the ambulance. Just as we approached the Emergency entrance, a group of hospital personnel burst through the doors and came running toward the ambulance with equipment.”

From that moment, everything fell into place “like clockwork,” she remembers. “They focused on treating my husband and got him into the hospital, while someone gently wrapped an arm around my shoulders to comfort me and answer my questions. The immediate response of the hospital medical team was unbelievable.”

“Because we received Mr. Stuttman’s ECG (electrocardiogram— see “Glossary”) results directly from the paramedics in the ambulance while en route to the hospital, we were able to assess and anticipate his condition and our next steps before Mr. Stuttman even arrived,” says Michael Werdmann, MD, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Bridgeport Hospital. “We had everything in place—the physicians, staff and equipment—so we were prepared to treat him immediately upon his arrival.”


Angioplasty – A procedure in which a tiny balloon on the tip of a catheter is used to push aside a blockage in a coronary (heart) artery to improve blood flow to the heart.

Catheterization – A procedure to examine blood flow to the heart and test how well the heart is pumping. A thin plastic tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery or vein in the arm or leg. From there it can be advanced into the chambers of the heart or into the coronary arteries.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) – A test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of the heart to find the cause of chest pain.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) – A test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of the heart to find the cause of chest pain.

Plaque – Cholesterol and fatty deposits that build up on the inner walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow to the heart.

“I was on the 10th floor, but as soon as I got the call from the Emergency Department (ED) I raced downstairs,” says cardiologist Robert Fishman, MD. “During a heart attack, time is muscle. One of the keys to preventing irreversible damage to the heart is to re-establish blood flow to the heart as quickly as possible.”

In the few moments it took Dr. Fishman to get to the ED, Burton had already been

  • resuscitated (revived from unconsciousness),
  • shocked (administered an electric shock to the heart to restore it to normal rhythm),
  • intubated (fitted with a tube in his airway to make breathing possible) and
  • sedated (calmed with medication).

“So we rushed him up to the cardiac catheterization lab (where patients’ arteries are opened) and in no time we did a catheterization (see “Glossary”), angioplasty (see “Glossary”) and put a stent in to keep his artery open. We clearly saved his heart muscle,” says Dr. Fishman.

When Angioplasty Isn’t the Answer

For some patients, angioplasty isn’t the right procedure. Your physician may determine that a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG—pronounced “cabbage”) is more appropriate. A CABG is a surgical procedure that creates a detour around a blockage in a heart artery. The bypass allows blood to flow freely to the heart muscle. A CABG may be used if more than one artery is blocked, or when the artery is blocked so completely that a balloon catheter will not push away the blockage (angioplasty) or if the blockage is in a location that is hard to reach with an angioplasty.

“This immediate treatment—from arrival in the Emergency Department to performing the cardiac catheterization—is based on a protocol that Bridgeport Hospital has in place for all heart attack patients, whether they walk through the door or arrive in an ambulance,” says Dr. Werdmann.

“The key is that we are prepared at all times,” says Chief of Cardiology Stuart Zarich, MD. “We are ready for heart attack patients at any moment. In the cardiac catheterization lab, everything is set up and everyone on the cardiac team is prepared to jump into action in an instant.” (See “Bridgeport Hospital Rated BEST in Connecticut for Heart Attack Survival,”) Even if it’s the middle of the night, a holiday or a weekend, our entire medical team is available to deliver life-saving treatment.

Providing Support, One Hug at a Time

At a time of crisis, the personalized treatment at Bridgeport Hospital includes caring for the patient’s loved ones. Hospital chaplains, nurses, case managers and social workers such as Jennifer Ellis, MSW, not only provide the family with information from the physician, but also prayer, hugs and soothing words of comfort at such a scary time.

“A heart attack is such an immediate event,” says Ellis. “Fear, anxiety and worry can consume a family so quickly. From the moment I greet the family at the ambulance or in the Emergency Department, I help them try to stay calm by answering their questions and just being there for them. We talk, we hug, we hold hands. I stay with them until their loved one is stabilized— however long that takes.”

For the next three days, the specially trained nurses from Bridgeport Hospital’s state-of-the-art Coronary Care Unit (CCU) constantly monitored Burton. “The CCU nurses couldn’t have been kinder to me and my three adult children,” says Dora. They were considerate and empathetic and always professional. Nothing but A-plus, plus, plus, plus, plus!”

When Burton was strong enough, a medical team moved him to a patient room on the 10th floor, into the hospital’s dedicated unit for heart patients. There, the specialized team cared for him and helped him regain his strength over the next couple of days until he was ready to go home. “It used to be that patients who had heart attacks stayed in the hospital for 14 days,” remembers Dr. Fishman. “We would wait until about the third day to allow them just to swing their legs over the side of the bed. Today, most patients are recovering and strong enough to go home after the third day and even start rehabilitation.” (See “Rehabilitation After a Heart Attack,” )

“I can’t say enough positive things about our experience at Bridgeport Hospital. There was never a delay in the expert care that my husband received,” says Dora.

“My heart had stopped, and if I had not gotten the right help quickly, I could have died,” says Burton. “You know, you never think a heart attack will happen to you. In my case, I know the expertise and coordination among my caregivers were critical factors in preserving my life. That’s what saved me. The ambulance team got me to the hospital in a hurry and communicated with the folks at Bridgeport Hospital the whole way there about my condition, so they were ready and waiting for me.

“I know I’m very lucky to be alive today,” he continues. “My doctor said Bridgeport Hospital brought me back to life.”

Bridgeport Hospital’s ability to deliver extraordinary cardiac care is due in large part to the generosity of donors throughout our region who contributed to the expansion and renovation of the Hospital’s Emergency Department. The project, which will be completed later this year, is being financed primarily through community donations, with almost $9 million contributed to the project to date. The expansion includes 11,000 square feet of new space, enlarging the facility to 25,000 square feet in total.

45 Years and Counting

For more than 45 years, the Heart Institute at Bridgeport Hospital has delivered outstanding, personalized care to thousands of people. With a history of so many heart firsts, Bridgeport Hospital should be the first place you think of for cardiac care.

  • First open-heart surgery in Fairfield County.
  • First coronary angioplasty in Connecticut.
  • First in Fairfield County to use stents to hold open coronary arteries.
  • First excimer laser angioplasty in Fairfield County.
  • First Chest Pain Center in Connecticut.
  • First in Fairfield County to use an implantable defibrillator for the treatment of sudden cardiac death.
  • First in Fairfield County to implant a pacemaker to treat congestive heart failure.
  • First electrophysiology lab in Fairfield County for the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms.
  • First and only bloodless medicine and surgery program in Southern Connecticut.

For a referral to a first-rate cardiac specialist, please call us toll free, 24/7, at 1-888-357-2396 or visit

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