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Scares Spark Healthier Habits in Retired Fire Chief
By Susan J. White
Twenty years ago, in the twilight hours before sunrise, Jay Reardon of Glenview woke up to bone-crushing pressure in his chest that made it difficult for him to breathe. Within minutes, he arrived at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital where doctors discovered a substantial blockage in a coronary artery. The next day, interventional cardiologists inserted two stents that opened blood flow to his heart.
“They told me I had well over 90% blockage. I was walking around on borrowed time,” recalled Reardon, 70, the retired Northbrook Fire Department and Statewide MABAS Mutual Aid Chief. “All those years I thought I was indestructible; it was time to change.”
It was a signal moment in Reardon’s life, and the beginning of a deep appreciation of—and long relationship with—his care team at the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute.
“I would have missed a lot of important things in the life of my family, my kids and grandchild had I not had such good care,” he said. “I have so much to be thankful for, especially for Darleen, my bride of 48 years, who has also benefited from NorthShore’s cardiologists.”
Cardiac Pavilion Debut
This past summer, Reardon eagerly gathered outside Glenbrook Hospital with NorthShore care team members, elected officials and community leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new, premier cardiovascular pavilion to be built on the hospital campus in Glenview. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2024.
The value of having a central hub for specialized, innovative cardiac care close to home is not lost on Reardon.
“NorthShore has effectively integrated the right people, training, equipment and infrastructure to provide a world-class system of healthcare,” he said. “We are so fortunate to have Glenbrook Hospital right down the street from our home.”
Another Close Call
Fortunate, indeed. Last year during a routine visit with NorthShore Cardiologist Jordan Harris, MD, Reardon explained that he was having trouble catching his breath. Walking up stairs had become a chore. Dr. Harris explained that Reardon was experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib), a common heart rhythm disorder that can lead to poor circulation and an increased risk for stroke.
Treatment options included conservative approaches with medication or cardioversion, a procedure that uses low-energy electrical shocks to restore the heart’s rhythm.
“Patients have different symptoms with AFib and we think carefully about what approach is best for each individual,” said Dr. Harris. “We also consider other risk factors, including lifestyle changes that may modify their risk.”
Reardon had a cardioversion that initially reset his heart and left him feeling much better, but after a few months, the AFib returned. Dr. Harris suggested he consider an ablation—a process to remove problematic heart tissue—with NorthShore Cardiac Electrophysiologist Mark Metzl, MD.
Last December, Dr. Metzl performed a catheter-based ablation to get rid of the tiny areas in Reardon’s heart that were firing abnormal electrical impulses, causing his AFib. The procedure went smoothly, and Reardon went home the same day. But his care didn’t stop there.
“We have an individually tailored, multi-prong approach to treating this disease,” said Dr. Metzl. “We look at opportunities to mitigate individual risks like stress reduction, weight loss, smoking cessation and decreased alcohol consumption. We look at the big picture, and that’s led to much better outcomes for our patients.”
Back on Track
With support from Drs. Harris and Metzl, Reardon took charge of his health by paying attention to his diet and “trying not to be a couch potato.”
“I try to connect with patients at their level and assess their readiness to make small changes and big steps toward a healthier lifestyle, which is really the essence of prevention,” said Dr. Harris. “As a general cardiologist, I’ve got a village of support here with expert electrophysiologists, vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists, and I know I can take excellent care of my patients.”