Diana Pitts: Open-Heart Surgery

Diana Pitts is a passionate fan of the Detroit Tigers. But shortness of breath and a lack of energy was beginning to make it difficult just to climb the bleachers.

Diana Pitts is a passionate fan of the Detroit Tigers baseball team and frequently travels to away games with four of her friends. But shortness of breath and a lack of energy was beginning to make it difficult just to climb the bleachers. She was also having trouble walking her chocolate lab, Hogan. Diana chalked it all up to getting older and tried to make the best of it.

Then, one October afternoon, Diana noticed that she “just didn’t feel good.” Her husband, Terry, was outside getting their three-acre yard ready for the winter. When Diana began to feel pain in her chest and back, she waved for Terry to come inside. “When he realized I wasn’t just waiving hello but needed help, he came in and called both 911 and a neighbor who is an RN,” Diana said. “In the meantime, I chewed two aspirin.”

Diana’s neighbor arrived shortly before the ambulance came. Because the paramedics gave Diana nitroglycerine, she was feeling better by the time she got to Allegiance Health Emergency. “I thought maybe I wasn’t having a heart attack after all,” she said, “but the EKG confirmed that I was.” She was admitted to the hospital and had open-heart surgery four days later.

“When I learned I needed open-heart surgery, I was really afraid,” Diana said. “I wasn’t thinking of going to Allegiance Health, because my father and brother had had by-pass surgery out of town.” Soon after meeting Allegiance cardiothoracic surgeons Mahender Macha and Vincent Simonetti, however, Diana changed her mind. “They took the time to answer all my questions and explain my options,” she said. “I decided I wanted my surgery here at Allegiance, and I had all the confidence in the world in their ability to take care of my heart.”

Just as important to Diana was the care she received after surgery in the Allegiance Heart and Vascular Center. “The nursing staff was always checking on me, and they took great care of my family,” she said. “I never had to use my call button because someone was always there for me.”

Diana says she is feeling better and stronger than she has in a long time and is looking forward to baseball season. “This is not the first serious health incident I have survived,” she said. “My daughter calls me ‘a tiger.’” Diana added that the tattoo she has on her wrist, which says “Always a Tiger,” is both a testament to her survivorship and an homage to her favorite team.

The best chance of surviving a heart attack is to act quickly. Do not wait for symptoms to go away. Call 9-1-1 immediately, and chew an aspirin while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.