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Moments That Matter: Walter P's Story

Fit and Active, Heart Attack Was a Shocker

Newton Medical Center patient W. Joseph Puza's book and pet dog sit on a couch.

When Walter P. felt his throat burning in May 2021, he blamed it on summer. “That usually happens when there’s an air conditioner on,” he says.

Walter, 61, is a thriller author (writing as W. Joseph Puza) and former martial arts instructor. He is in great shape, but his throat trouble was a sign of a massive heart attack called a STEMI – for ST-elevated myocardial infarction – that happens when a coronary artery is completely blocked.

“The day I went in I was running, lifting weights, hitting the speed bag,” Walter says. But the burning was getting worse. “I was going to wait and talk to my regular doctor, but I had a lot to do that week so I said, ‘Let me go to the hospital.’”

Walter and his wife made the short drive to Newton Medical Center late in the evening. “I told the nurse who checked us in that my throat was burning and she said, ‘You may be having a heart attack.’”

Walter was in the right place. In August 2020, Newton Medical Center opened a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) program in its Charles L. Tice Heart Center. When the emergency department staff saw the classic signs of a STEMI on Walter’s EKG readout, they alerted interventional cardiologist Sapan Talati, MD, who is board-certified in cadiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography and internal medicine.“When you have a STEMI, time is muscle,” Dr. Talati says. “If you put a stent in within 90 minutes, it leads to good outcomes, and that’s what we did for Walter.”


When a patient is having a heart attack, they need to have that artery opened as quickly as possible. And when patients need additional care, there is a seamless connection between Newton and Morristown.

Sapan Talati, MD

During his evaluation, Dr. Talati saw that Walter had other blockages in other arteries. Patients typically stay at Newton after PCI. “Ideally, you don’t open other blockages while a patient is having a heart attack, as you want the muscles to heal, but since his blockages in other arteries were critical, we transferred him to Morristown Medical Center to get the other procedures done,” Dr. Talati says.

Walter was the 50th patient to benefit from the PCI program at Newton Medical Center. “Patients are appreciative of the initiative that Atlantic Health System took to get this at Newton,” Dr. Talati says. “When a patient is having a heart attack, they need to have that artery opened as quickly as possible. And when patients need additional care, there is a seamless connection between Newton and Morristown.”

Walter is already back to exercising and playing with his two dogs. “Everybody that I met really did a wonderful job,” he says. “They took great care of me.”


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