Recalling The Night of My Father’s Heart Attack

March 19, 2015 began as the worst day of my life. My dad suffered a major heart attack. On this day, around 1:30 in the morning, I received a terrifying call from my mom. “Maria. Your dad had a heart attack. We are at Toledo Hospital.” I sat up in my bed in shock and disbelief. My heart hurt.

Maria and dad
My dad and I have always been close. His experience with a heart attack had my head spinning.

This can’t be real, I thought. Not my dad. Not my mentor, my friend. We love him too much. Everyone loves him. Everywhere we go someone will come up to my dad and thank him for being the best pediatrician, and a friend. He is just too important to too many people. He is healthy and in shape. Not my dad.

My husband and I immediately got in the car to drive to the hospital.

As my husband drove, I called my sister, who was 7 months pregnant at the time. I felt a sense of horror and guilt to have to make this call: To let her know that our dad had just had a heart attack. She and her husband immediately got in the car to drive from Cleveland to the hospital. I asked my sister to call my brother, who lives in California. I just could not make another call.

We arrived at ProMedica Toledo Hospital by 2 a.m. I had been working at Toledo Hospital in the Philanthropy Department for over two years, but in my state of shock, I couldn’t seem to find the way. Thankfully, the staff at the Information Desk asked one of the security guards to help us, and he walked us the entire way to meet my mom. I wish I could remember his name to thank him.

I crumbled into my mom’s arms, and she crumbled into mine. About 15 minutes after arriving, Dr. Praveen Tamirisa came out of my dad’s procedure and explained to us that my dad’s heart attack was bad, and that he placed five stents in his heart, all through his wrist. Dr. Tamirisa was calm and reassuring, and let us know that they would be bringing my dad out shortly.

Eight months later, Maria and her father reflect on their experience in an intimate interview as part of ProMedica’s 24/7 Cardiology campaign. Get a glimpse of their heartfelt talk below or click here to watch the full video.

When they wheeled my dad out on the bed, my heart was simultaneously filled with joy and fear. Joy that my dad was saved. Fear that my dad was a patient, a heart attack patient. Was he going to be okay? Was there still a chance he might die from this? I tried to stay strong, but the tears trickled down my cheeks. To my surprise, my dad joked, “Who invited her?” with a smile on his face. I am incredibly close with my family, and my dad knew that I would be a wreck. I kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand before we followed the rolling bed to the Intensive Care Unit.

The rest of the week was a blur. My dad was lucky enough to be moved to a step-down unit the same night, and discharged from the hospital Friday afternoon.

March 19, 2015 ended as the best day of my life. It was the day my dad survived a major heart attack.

TCH Chefs for Children 2014
My parents and I at the annual Chefs for Children event at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital.

There are two people I need to thank. First of all, my mom. I later found out that my dad kept putting off what he was feeling as indigestion. They say doctors are the worst patients, and I can attest to this being absolutely true. When he woke up around 12:30 a.m. the morning of his heart attack, yawning repeatedly and stretching his arms to try to feel better, my mom had enough. She told my dad to get dressed and she drove him to the emergency room. Thank God she did.

The second person I want to thank is Dr. Tamirisa. His expertise, fast thinking and overall great care saved my father’s life, and I will never be able to thank him enough. Not only did Dr. Tamirisa provide extraordinary care to my dad, but his patience and diligence to my family was outstanding. I could not have asked for a better doctor, or a better facility, to care for my dad.

My dad is doing great. He went back to work at ProMedica Perrysburg Pediatrics six days after his heart attack. Six days. He has finished Cardiac Rehab and just became a first time grandpa. Life is good.

The irony of this all is that when my dad had a heart attack, I was in the middle of launching a revamped Grateful Patient and Family Program for ProMedica. This program is important to the philanthropic efforts of ProMedica as it invites patients and their families to join ProMedica’s mission by sharing their story and/or making a financial contribution in honor of a caregiver.

I was extremely passionate about this program before his heart attack, but have become even more passionate and inspired since. Our doctors, nurses, and other caregivers at ProMedica deserve to be recognized for the extraordinary care they deliver to our community. Gifts in honor of a caregiver can help ensure that ProMedica has the most state-of-the-art technology and facilities that our patients deserve, as well as help recruit and retain caregivers of the highest caliber.

Do you have a grateful patient story to share? Please respond in a comment below or visit to learn more about ProMedica’s philanthropy efforts.

Maria Dvorak SchmalzriedMaria Dvorak Schmalzried, project manager, sustaining strategies, ProMedica Philanthropy, was born in Toledo, Ohio, but grew up in the neighborhood of Ottawa Hills with her parents, older sister, and younger brother.