OLNEY, Md. (WUSA) -- Fitness and healthy eating have always been important to Brian Sweeney. The owner of Paintmasters Collision Center in Rockville and basketball coach takes pride in living his life to the fullest.
Sweeney says, "I'm a workout nut, I love to go to the gym."
But one day while working out, Brian suddenly felt weak. He started to experience flu-like symptoms with heavy sweating and severe fatigue. It lasted for 2 days.
"So we went to the hospital and within ten minutes I was in a helicopter on the way to Washington Hospital Center," says Sweeney.
Robert A. Gallino, MD of Cardiology Associates says, "We opened up one of the main arteries that feeds his heart, it was 100 percent blocked."
Brian suffered a major heart attack and didn't even know it. There was no tell-tale tightness in his chest or pain shooting down his arm like many other heart attack victims. But since he took 2 days to go to the hospital, his heart sustained a great deal of lasting damage. This put Brian at risk for a dangerous arrhythmia.
Dr. Gallino says, "The goal then was to give him some protection until we could see how much of his heart muscle recovered."
So Brian got a device called the LifeVest, it is an external wearable defibrillator. It can detect an off-kilter heart rhythm and deliver a shock to bring it back in line. It didn't take long for the vest to kick in during a spinning class.
Sweeney says, "I get through 50 minutes of the class and i'm looking like anyone else and working hard. I get this very euphoric feeling thinking, 'something's wrong, i'm passing out, i'm checking out.'"
His fellow cyclists witnessed the LifeVest shock Brian's heart back to normal.
Dr. Gallino says, "It was very clear that that would have been the last day of his life. His heart had stopped, 100 percent."
Sweeney says, "The device went off twice, and it took me and it zapped me, and it went ahead and did it again and I owe my life to it."
Brian now has a defibrillator implanted in his chest. Doctors wanted him to wear the LifeVest while they waited to see how much of his heart would heal.
Sweeney says, "As men we are the last ones to go to the doctor, we are to proud. The number one problem I had was not getting help. I wish I had. THey were telling me that they could have saved that part of my heart."
He gives advice for those who hesitate to seek help when they are not feeling well.
Sweeney says, "Throw pride in the trash can and get to the doctor. Check it out, we are important, we have lives. We have families and friends."