Heart attack nearly lethal for retired math professor

Yes, it was a funny feeling in the chest. But a heart attack? It just didn’t add up for Jonathan Simon, a retired professor of mathematics at the University of Iowa. The feeling had developed while he walked indoor laps one chilly day in January 2012.

“Very unpleasant, a little like bronchitis,” he says.

Jonathan Simon
Carelessly, Jon realized later, he walked more laps to see if his symptoms would improve.

They didn’t. He decided to change clothes and drive to the UI QuickCare clinic at the Old Capitol Town Center mall in downtown Iowa City. Jon knew the walk-in clinic was convenient and the service good.

Staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants under the supervision of medical director Harriet Echternacht, MD, UI QuickCare clinics serve people who feel ill but don’t need an emergency room or can’t get to their regular doctors.

On this day, the UI QuickCare medical team would save Jon’s life. He was evaluated almost immediately, and while his heart sounded OK by stethoscope, a more extensive evaluation was needed at UI Hospitals and Clinics, located just a few minutes away.

“So I sat down and called my wife to take me to the hospital,” Jon says. “As we talked, I began to feel dizzy. That’s the last thing I’d remember for the next five days.”

Jon had suffered a major heart attack, in which one of the main coronary arteries was abruptly and completely blocked. He had gone into sudden cardiac arrest, a life-threatening condition.

Fortunately, the UI QuickCare team responded immediately by shocking his arrested heart with a defibrillator. A Johnson County Ambulance crew intubated him and provided initial treatment while taking him to the hospital, where UI Heart and Vascular Care cardiologist Theresa Brennan, MD, implanted a coronary stent to fix the dangerous blockage.

Cardiologist Kimberly Staffey, MD
Kimberly Staffey, MD

Cardiologist Kimberly Staffey, MD, led a cardiovascular intensive care unit team that placed Jon in a temporary comatose state using a sophisticated temperature management system called Arctic Sun. This hypothermic treatment kept him from sustaining brain damage after the cardiac arrest.

That was two years ago. Today, Jon’s gratitude and sense of good fortune runs deep. “I’m truly grateful that the university’s medical teams did everything right and they did it quickly,” he says. “I feel astoundingly fortunate.”

UI QuickCare operates six walk-in locations:

  • Coralville
  • East Iowa City
  • Mormon Trek Blvd., Iowa City
  • Muscatine
  • North Liberty
  • Old Capitol Town Center, Iowa City

–Winter 2013-14