Two Heart Attacks, Six Months Apart

Bill Regan watches as Dr. Christopher Dussel speaks at a presentation for the Parma Fire Department

The City of Parma is strengthened by close collaboration between police and fire departments and UH Parma Medical Center, says Dr. Christopher Dussel, Associate Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of Emergency Services at UH Parma, who also serves as Medical Director for the City of Parma. Interventional Cardiologist Paul Poommipanit, MD, at left in white coat in scrubs, performed the first intervention on Bill Regan of Hudson, who collapsed twice leaving the pickleball court in Parma.

Champion pickleball player back on the court thanks to winning team.

Bill Regan, a 79-year-old pickleball champ who has competed in national and international tournaments, knows all about collaborating for a winning result. But the most important team in his life was waiting just off the court, when heart attacks struck – twice in just six months.

The Hudson man regularly plays with friends on a court near Ries Ice Rink in Parma. He had just stepped off the court one May morning when he collapsed. Fortunately for him he had been playing with two men who know CPR. The retired Cleveland firefighter and retired Brunswick police officer immediately recognized Bill was having a heart attack, his second in six months, and started the vital bystander CPR that can double or triple a person’s chance of survival while 9-1-1 was called. In minutes, Parma Police arrived and pulled an AED from their cruiser to shock Bill’s heart back into rhythm. Then paramedics from the Parma Fire Department arrived to transport Bill to UH Parma Medical Center.

“I’m so grateful for these guys,” said Bill at a reunion at UH Parma, surrounded by the two physicians, five medics, two police officers and two friends who made this day possible. “They are the quiet everyday heroes here in the community of Parma. You’re very fortunate to have dedicated people like this.”

For 15 years, UH Parma has employed the Code STEMI system, in which squads can alert the Emergency Departments of a ST-elevated myocardial infarction en route, allowing the Cardiac Catheterization Lab to prepare for the patient. This fast response time ensures the blocked coronary artery is opened expeditiously, as in Bill’s case where he suffered no lasting deficits.

UH Parma, already recognized for strong cardiac care, is gaining a boost from UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute with the recently announced expansion of cardiac surgery and advanced cardiovascular services. The hospital is less than two miles from the pickleball courts where Bill’s heart attacks struck both times.

“He was incredulous he was having a heart attack,” said Paul Poommipanit, MD, the interventional cardiologist who inserted the first stent in Bill’s right coronary artery after his first heart attack in November, and was expecting him back for his six-month follow-up, when he learned Bill had returned by squad.

Bill’s wife and usual pickleball partner, Eileen, believes his case underscores the importance of knowing CPR to respond in an emergency. Fortunately, the retired members of the safety forces whom Bill was playing with that May morning recognized his distress as a heart attack.

“This really emphasizes the need for all of us to be up to our CPR standards," Eileen said. “They – all of them together, starting with bystander CPR – definitely saved his life."

Bill was back on the pickleball court the week after his discharge in May 2021. With a decade of competition under his belt, he’s not about to abandon the sport that has kept his heart pumping for the past decade. Bill and Eileen placed third in the nation at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis in 2015. The couple went on to medal in the Spanish Open and Bainbridge Cup (the first intercontinental team event in the history of the sport) in Madrid in 2017 and the Irish Open in 2019, and only slowed down when the pandemic prompted the cancellation of the 2020 tournaments. They intend to return to the National Senior Games next year.

Bill turned 80 on August 5, the same week UH Parma celebrated 60 years of serving the southwest suburbs. Now the father of five and grandfather of 13 is ready to return to the game.

“Yesterday I went back to Parma to see what the karma was like," Bill said. “I had a good day. I really feel good. The health caregivers here are excellent."