Supporters of Emergency Heart Care Ensure Team Available at All Hours

One night in July 2011, Shawn Gieszler lay down in his bed and suddenly got an upset stomach. He stood up and the discomfort subsided only to return as soon as he went back to bed. But after a while, he also started sweating heavily and developing chest pain.

Gieszler, 47 years old at the time, knew something was wrong. His wife, Jan, drove him to the Sanford Emergency and Trauma Center

“The faster you come in and get it taken care of, the less permanent damage there is to the heart,” said Richard Howard, MD, a Sanford Health cardiologist.

Gieszler slipped into cardiac arrest when he arrived in the Sanford Emergency and Trauma Center. The medical staff shocked his heart back to life, stabilized him and activated the emergency heart team that’s on-call at all hours.

In the cardiac catheterization lab the Sanford Health team gently threaded a catheter – a long, flexible tube tipped with a balloon – through the blocked blood vessel that caused the heart attack. The balloon inflated inside the vessel, opening it up and allowing blood to flow.

Gieszler said he doesn’t recall much of the experience. “I remember them getting me into one of the rooms, and I kept telling them, ‘You’ve gotta help me,’” he said.

Dr. Howard said the emergency heart team must work together in order to save lives. “A phone call comes in and within 20 minutes the cath lab is open,” Dr. Howard said. “It’s a well-orchestrated event. It’s almost like a ballet. It’s all about how quickly you can get the patient in.”

Gifts to emergency and trauma funds through the Sanford Health Foundation provide support for advanced training and certification for medical staff and ensure the very latest equipment and technology is available in this region. Donor gifts also help expand programs and services, such as Cardiac Rehabilitation, which Gieszler participated in following his procedure and recovery and where he learned about exercises and other lifestyle adjustments he could make to strengthen his heart and mitigate his risk of future heart disease. He started a regimen of cholesterol-lowering medications and daily aspirin under Dr. Howard’s guidance and also avoids fried and fast food.

“He had a heart attack that could have killed him,” Dr. Howard said. “But by getting treated quickly and taking the right medications after, he has normal heart function.”

Gieszler said he’s grateful for this second chance in life, feeling better than before his heart attack. “I’m just thankful they were there and could provide that service so quickly,” he said. “It’s out of your hands when you come in. To have people trained and knowledgeable, I owe them everything.”

To support the Sanford Emergency and Trauma Center in Bismarck, visit or call (701) 323-8450.

Posted Date: June 2013

Supporters of Emergency Heart Care Ensure Team Available at All Hours

When Shawn Gieszler slipped into cardiac arrest upon arriving at the Sanford Emergency and Trauma Center, the medical team - on-call at all hours - was able to save his life.