Cheri's Story

Quick Actions of EMS, Hospital Staff and an Emergency Bypass Save Twinsburg Woman’s Life

cheri's story
Michael Cunningham, MD and Cheri Eyink

That Monday night in September 2016 started like any other for Twinsburg resident Cheri Eyink, uneventful, routine. Suddenly, a crushing pain across her back, from armpit to armpit, drove her to the bedroom floor and changed her life. “I remember thinking something was horrendously wrong,” Eyink recalls. “I called out to my husband, who was downstairs, to call an ambulance.”

From there, events moved in rapid-fire succession. The Twinsburg EMS arrived within minutes. Eyink remembers an emergency medical technician saying, “We better go, now!” – then very little until four days later when she opened her eyes to family, friends and the nurses at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center.

In between, Eyink had suffered a heart attack and undergone implantation of a stent followed by triple coronary bypass surgery. All this, Eyink marvels, for a woman with no symptoms of heart disease or heart attack and none of the usual risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. In fact, she later learned her arteries were completely clear.

As Eyink was en route, UH interventional cardiologist Gregory Stefano, MD, got the call to be prepared for an incoming heart attack. He was ready and waiting when she arrived in the cath lab and performed an emergency stent procedure to open her coronary arteries. But, not satisfied that the stent was a permanent solution, he consulted with UH heart surgeon Soon Park, MD, Co-Director of the UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute and Division Chief of Cardiac Surgery at UH Cleveland Medical Center.

Dr. Park performed a triple bypass in the middle of the night, “although of course I don’t remember any of it,” Eyink says. She woke up four days later to what she describes as the “incredible kindness and caring of the nurses and medical staff.” Eyink was able to go home a week after the heart attack.

From the imaging of her heart taken at the hospital, specialists at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute were able to determine that Eyink’ s heart attack was caused by spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

“They explained that it is a spontaneous tear in the lining of one of the heart arteries, where blood flows between the layers and causes a blockage leading to a heart attack,” she explains. “It’s a rare condition that usually affects women under 50, and usually women who are otherwise healthy.”

For her ongoing heart health, Eyink is under the care of cardiologist Michael Cunningham, MD. He monitors her heart and overall physical condition and encourages her to focus on continuing her healthy lifestyle and minimizing stress in her life.

Eyink looks back on the experience with gratitude for her family, friends and neighbors, the Twinsburg EMS and the team at UH Ahuja Medical Center who saved her life.

“I can’t say enough about them,” she says. “They literally and figuratively touched my heart!”