Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio runs onto the field at the beginning of the NCAA college football game against Illinois in Champaign, Ill., Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Michigan State defeated Illinois 24-14. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
One of the Spartans' most thrilling victories took its toll on Coach Mark Dantonio.
Moments after his postgame press conference following MSU's 34-31 OT win over Notre Dame, it was clear something was wrong.
"In his case it was a form of chest comfort, a pressure, a squeezing sensation," said Dr. Chris D'Haem, an interventional cardiologist with Sparrow Hospital.
Dantonio was rushed to Sparrow Hospital by his family early Sunday morning and it didn't take doctors long to find out exactly what was wrong.
"The first electro cardiogram pretty much told the story," said D'Haem. "It was very clear from the get-go what was going on."
Doctors found out that one of DAntonio's blood vessels leading to the heart was blocked. To open the blockage, doctors at Sparrow performed an emergency angioplasty. In that procedure, a thin tube is inserted by catheter through the site of the blockage. Then a small "balloon" is used to open up the blocked area and allow blood to flow through. Then another balloon is used to insert a small metallic device called a stent which keeps the blood vessel open.
"That whole procedure is usually in the hour range from the time a person arrives to the time it's finished," said D'Haem.
The procedure was not only a success, but doctors found that there was relatively minor damage done to Dantonio's heart. Dr. D'Haem classified the heart attack as a small one.
While Dr. D'Haem says that the exciting finish to Saturday's game didn't cause Dantonio's heart attack, it did play a role.
"Certainly stress doesn't cause coronary heart disease but as we all know emotionally and physically stressful events can be the trigger," said D'Haem. "I think we all know it was a pretty emotional night for all of us."
Although Dantonio is expected to make a full recovery, many people who suffer heart attacks are not as lucky. The American Heart Association says that there is a heart attack nearly every minute in the United States, just under one million per year in total. Every three minutes, a heart attack takes the life of an American, totalling a little more than 400,000 deaths in total per year.
In order to stay healthy, doctors say Dantonio will have to carefully monitor and control several risk factors including blood pressure and cholesterol intake.
Dr. D'Haem would not give a timetable for when Coach Dantonio could return to the sidelines. However, the American Heart Association says that recovery will take a minimum of two weeks.