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Thomas Bak


A life changing event

“You’re here because you’re having a major heart attack, but you’ll be fine.” These words provided relief to 56-year-old Thomas Bak of Akron as he looked up into his doctor’s eyes from the bed in the cardiac cath lab at Summa Akron City Hospital in April.

Less than an hour earlier, Bak, a technical specialist, was having a seemingly ordinary day, working from his home office when he felt like taking a break. Suddenly, though, he felt deep, intense pain in his chest and broke out in a sweat. As he called his wife for help, Bak’s arms went numb, and his fingers began to tingle.

Bak was experiencing a heart attack known as an ST-elevation myocardial infarction or STEMI, one of the most serious emergencies.

“I was thinking, ‘This is really bad,” Bak said. “I was ready to have a conversation with God at any moment.”

Within five minutes of his wife giving Bak a low-dose aspirin and calling 911, the paramedics were placing EKG leads on Bak’s chest and relaying this vital information back to Summa Akron City Hospital. In a blur of activity, paramedics literally carried Bak to the ambulance and rushed him to Summa’s emergency department, talking to hospital physicians and staff along the way.

“It was a well-oiled machine,” Bak said. “There was continual back and forth communication.”

Within 24 minutes of arrival at the hospital, Bak’s heart attack was over. Summa’s cardiac cath lab team, led by interventional cardiologist Kenneth Berkovitz, M.D., had opened Bak’s coronary artey, so that the part of his heart threatened by a clot was once again receiving blood-flow.

Following his initial hospital stay, Bak was treated for atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder that sometimes follows STEMI heart attacks. He also recently completed a stress test with normal results. Dr. Berkovitz, who is medical director of Summa Cardiovascular Institute and a member of Summa Physicians Inc. – Interventional Cardiology, coordinated Bak’s follow-up care. This included a scheduled heart cath to place additional stents in areas of Bak’s heart where blockages were forming.

Bak is now exercising in cardiac rehab to strengthen his heart. He also quit smoking and is focusing on eating a healthy diet.

For men and women interested in cardiovascular screenings in their community, Summa Health System is partnering with HealthFair to charter a mobile screening bus that will be visiting multiple northeast Ohio communities this summer. View a schedule of where the mobile screening bus will stop and to make an appointment.