Trauma Medical Director didn’t expect a heart attack

Trauma Medical Director didn’t expect a heart attack

Dr. Thomas and Adrienne Robb

Dr. Thomas Robb knew that he should quit smoking.

“I was past 50 and I knew I was putting myself at risk for a myocardial infarction (MI or heart attack) and lung cancer,” he said. “But it’s easier said than done.”

On Jan. 31 of this year, Robb experienced what he first thought was reflux. But it worsened, and soon he was sweating heavily and could barely stand.

“I knew I was having an MI,” Robb said.

Dr. Robb is the trauma medical director at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, where he has worked for the past 18 years. He will share his story at the Tri-County Heart Walk on Saturday, May 21, at Lake Welch Beach at Harriman State Park. Walk check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. and the 3-mile Walk steps off at 9 a.m. 

Dr. Robb’s wife Adrienne, a nurse at Vassar Hospital, called 911, and had him slide down the stairs in a seated position in case he collapsed and she had to do chest compressions. The Robbs could read the EKG in the ambulance, he said, and knew it wasn’t good.

It turned out that Dr. Robb had 100% blockage in his circumflex artery. He had a cardiac catheterization and now has two stents.

Robb has made lifestyle changes since then. He quit smoking, altered his diet, lost weight and his cholesterol went down. Cardiac rehab has been something that he never misses, even when it means altering his schedule. He also has reduced his workload, which routinely was 70 – 90 hours per week.

Robb’s advice to others is to not ignore symptoms.

“When you get into your 50s, is when you start to see some of your people pass away,” Robb said. “Sometimes, the first time you find out people have heart disease is when they die. I remember thinking, that could happen to me, but we all get so busy doing everything, you don’t stop and take care of yourself.”

Robb said he finds that men, especially, get busy with work and tend to ignore symptoms, especially chest pain, and can end up in congestive heart failure and needing open heart surgery.

“I know it’s hard to do, but you have to take time for yourself, and modify the risk factors, like smoking, cholesterol, and blood pressure,” he said.