MD Insider: Teamwork Saves the Life of Long-Time Coach

Ron Dawn, one of the all-time winningest high school basketball coaches in the area, knows a thing or two about the importance of teamwork. He’ll be the first to tell you that his most successful teams stemmed from their ability to play well, together. Five months ago, Dawn remembers seeing that level of collaboration working for his own benefit, not to win a basketball game, but to save his life.

On Sept. 2, Dawn, Principal of Newport Central Catholic High School, had a heart attack at school. His assistant called 911 and he was rushed to The Christ Hospital, where cardiologists discovered a 100% blockage in Dawn’s coronary artery.

Dawn recalls, “As soon as I arrived, I went straight to the cath lab. The process was unbelievable. Dr. Choo (Joseph Choo, MD) opened the blockage very quickly. The time from when I entered the hospital until I received my stent was 19 minutes”. The national average is approximately 70 minutes. Two days later, Dawn was released from the hospital and his life was back to normal.

However, the rest of the month was anything but normal.

Ten days after his heart attack, Dawn suffered from a rare lethal arrhythmia. “My heart stopped in the middle of the night,” Dawn remembers. “My wife kept me alive with CPR until the ambulance arrived.” 

Dawn would spend the next 8 days in the hospital during which he was touched by nearly every heart specialty team; receiving a defibrillator implant for his arrhythmia, and eventually open heart surgery.

Luckily, the Heart and Vascular Program at The Christ Hospital was ready for all of Dawn’s challenges, thanks to a comprehensive “heart team approach” that’s evolved into a core part of the program’s culture.

According to Dr. Eugene Chung, Heart Failure Specialist as well as President and CEO of The Christ Hospital Physicians Ohio Heart and Vascular, a collaborative specialty approach is critical for any leading-edge heart program today, especially in more complicated cases. Physicians specialized in specific cardiovascular conditions are able to provide a greater level of expertise.

This approach is unique and requires more time and effort, but is also crucial for exceptional patient care. “Many patients come to the hospital because they are presenting one symptom of one condition. However, one heart condition often leads to other conditions and each one must receive the highest level of treatment,” he says. “Our patients are able to move seamlessly through this treatment journey because of the “teamwork culture” amongst not only our physicians, but all of our heart and vascular staff.”

Dawn recalls at one point his cardiac rhythm specialist, cardiothoracic surgeon, clinical cardiologist and interventional cardiologist were all in his room at the same time. “They discussed my situation, created a plan and got it all worked out, fortunately for me” Dawn said.

Dawn and Chung both emphasize that the heart team approach works because it also includes a dedicated staff which includes our EMS partners, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants, not just doctors. “They are an indispensable part of the team, both inpatient and outpatient,” Chung says.

If you saw Dawn today, you would never know that he escaped death twice, just a few short months ago. His message to everyone this Heart Month is, “take care of your heart, enjoy every second with your loved ones and if anything should happen to your heart, make sure you choose the best team in town to take care of it.”

To find out if you are at risk for heart disease, consider our $29 Screening,  available throughout the Tristate. To schedule, call 513-261-8007 or click the link.