Officer survives heart attack, urges others to get checked

Posted at 6:19 AM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-28 06:32:30-05

WYOMING, Mich. -  Adam Bartone has been a police officer in West Michigan for more than 25 years, helping and protecting the community.

But on November 5, 2018, he was the one that needed help.

"I simply walked down the stairs and about halfway down, I felt this crushing pain in my chest," Bartone told FOX 17. "And by the time I got to the bottom, it was almost unbearable. The crushing pain was so compelling that I put my fist up against my chest...and you couldn't pry it from there."

Bartone was trying to understand what was happening to him, but one of his sons already knew.  He was having a heart attack.

The 54-year-old Wyoming police officer couldn't believe it.

"The last thing in your mind is 'heart attack' because I'm taking care of myself. I'm not smoking. I'm not drinking," said Bartone.

"Unfortunately, I meet a lot of men, and the first time I meet them is after their first heart attack," says Dr. Ryan Madder, who is a cardiologist with Spectrum Health at the Meijer Heart Center.  "It’s not at all uncommon for those men to say, 'well, I haven’t seen a physician in 20 years' or 'I was feeling chest pain, kind of on and off before this heart attack, but ignored it.'  I think those are kind of all missed opportunities where something could have been done to try to lower that patients risk of having that event.”

Bartone didn't ignore his doctor visits, he did not know the warning signs that his heart was in trouble.

“I was having a hard time sleeping, I was taking a lot of antacid at night, and I was eating it like candy. I was very restless. I had also found out, well, my teeth were hurting, and come to find out that that is a sign, it’s one of the signs and symptoms of a pre-heart attack. And I knew none of this. So, this whole process has been very educational for me," Bartone said.

Dr. Madder says education, awareness and a visit to your physician is a great start to knowing your heart health.

“There’s a lot of assessment that we can do in the office, like looking at the patient's age, family history, traditional risk factors of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking... all of those can be assessed in the office and we can tell an individual what their risk is of having a first major cardiovascular event," explains Dr. Madder.

Dr. Madder also says your chances of having another heart attack actually go up after you've had one.  Over the three or four years after a heart attack, you have about a 20% chance of having another problem.

"I wanna be around a lot longer for them and I wanna enjoy my time and I wanna cross the finish line in my career and start a new chapter," says Bartone. "I wanna do that with my wife and my sons and I want to be there for them. 54 years old is too young and I wouldn’t want anybody to go through that at any age, but certainly at a young age, your 40s or 50s are way too young, but they happen and they can happen to anybody. I would, again, go out and get checked, talk with your physician, know the signs, get educated, know your family history and be proactive. Take the simple tests. It could save your life.”

During Bartone's heart attack and recovery, he learned that there is a lot of heart disease in his family history. His dad had a quintuple bypass and two of his brothers have had heart attacks. The other three have since been to their doctor and have done the tests and are doing well.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, visit the website of the American Heart Association.