Meredith Berlinsky was driving to a friend’s son graduation party in May when the left side of his chest and shoulder tightened.
He shifted positions to ease the pain but it didn’t help, and within five minutes, Berlinksy hurt so badly that he couldn’t drive with his left arm. As his jaw tingled and his breathing became more rapid, the radiological technologist recognized his symptoms: he was having a heart attack.
The 43-year-old father of two hardly could believe what was happening; he ate healthy and didn’t smoke or drink.
“I kept telling myself I wasn’t having one,” said Berlinsky, who has worked for Roper St. Francis for 17 of his 21 years in healthcare. “I was blaming (the symptoms) on other things, but the other part of me knew that that is what was happening. I teach CPR, and I know all the signs and symptoms. Everything was textbook.”
Berlinsky is Roper St. Francis’ Heart Hero, which means he’s participating in and advocating for the Lowcountry Heart Walk on Sept. 27.
The event will be held at 9 a.m. at Liberty Square in downtown Charleston. The Lowcountry Heart Walk’s goal is to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living, and the money raised will go toward the American Heart Association’s efforts to fight heart disease and stroke.
Roper St. Francis has more than 20 teams that are participating in the Lowcountry Heart Walk. To find one, click here.
“I want to create awareness that this could happen to anyone, even if you don’t have any known risk factors,” Berlinksy said.
Once Berlinsky realized he likely was having a heart attack, he got out of the car and asked his wife to drive him to Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley, which is where he works. He quickly walked to the front desk receptionist, who proceeded to ask him multiple questions.
Berlinsky could barely breathe or speak, so when the ER doors opened for someone leaving, Berlinsky walked in and tried to find someone to treat him.
“It hurt so badly that I could hardly feel my hands and lips,” he said. “It was almost instinct. I knew I needed to get back there to get help.”
The first person he saw was an ER tech he knew, so he told her what was happening and she immediately called out for help. Everyone came running.
Within minutes, Berlinsky had an IV and an EKG, which checked the electrical activity of his heart, and Dr. Adam Mandel confirmed his suspicion that he was having a heart attack.
After just 26 minutes, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital transferred Berlinsky to Roper Hospital for a heart catheter; Roper Hospital does all the heart catheter in the Roper St. Francis system.
After surgery at Roper Hospital, Dr. Troy Bunting with Coastal Cardiology told Berlinsky that his right coronary artery was 99 percent blocked, and he received a stent. Tests showed no long-term damage to his heart, and three days later, Berlinsky had three more stents placed on the left side of his heart.
“This has been a life-changing event,” he said. “It can happen to you. Eat better, exercise, manage your stress and see your physician for physicals.  Don’t take anything for granted, live your life in moderation and enjoy yourself. Life’s clock is always ticking, so don’t waste time.”

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