When 55-year-old Scott Fannin set out for the grocery store New Year’s Day 2017, he only made it halfway before he started having bad pains in his chest.

The Conway resident said his heart started hurting and his arm began to go numb.

Fannin said he had been having the pains for four or five days prior but had ignored it.

“Which wasn’t good on my part,” Fannin said. “I should’ve come then, but I didn’t.”

He said he called his wife and told her he needed to get checked out because he was a in a lot of pain, so the two headed to Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway.

He said the hospital staff got him back into the catheterization lab — the cath lab is a room in a hospital with imaging equipment used to visualize the arteries of the heart and its chambers — immediately.

Cardiologist Dr. Bernard Gojer said when someone who has blockage in their arteries, a process that builds throughout many years, and that blockage gets ulcerated, it ruptures and forms a blood clot, cutting off the blood flow from the heart, causing a heart attack.

“If you don’t get it open soon enough, then you lose the muscle that that artery supplies, so the goal in managing a heart attack is to restore the blood supply as quickly as possible,” he said.

At Baptist, Gojer said they try to get heart patients back to the cath lab and open that artery up within 90 minutes, which was the case in Fannin’s situation.

“He got right back there and he got it opened up right away,” he said.

Gojer said the symptoms Fannin had are common in heart attack patients and include chest pain, pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating and pain in the arm and shoulder, but often times, people will bypass what they’re experiencing and chalk it up to indigestion or heart burn.

“They tend to talk themselves out of going to the doctor,” he said. “You need to recognize the symptoms and you need to act on them as soon as you can. There’s no one right way. Judgement is always key and there’s nothing you can tell people to absolutely tell the difference so you really just have to be cautious. Better safe than sorry.”

February is American Heart Month and Gojer said while there are some risk factors that contribute — genetics, smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure and more — to heart attacks and heart disease, overall, there’s no specific age it’s more prevalent in.

“Just don’t take any chances,” he said. “Just get attention and try to do it as quick as possible. You only have one heart.”

Gojer said no one is fully immune to having heart disease.

“Most important thing is to do everything you can to reduce your risk factors and have a heart health lifestyle but also to see your doctor and if you do have any family history of heart disease, evaluate that, learn your risk factors and don’t make any assumptions,” he said. “Just check yourself out. Go see your doctor. Be aware and don’t ignore it.”

As far as Fannin is concerned, Gojer said he is happy with the outcome.

“The work he [did] on me was excellent,” Fannin said. “The staff [that] worked well with him was excellent. The hospital was excellent all the way around. You couldn’t have asked for a better environment to be in if you’re in that situation and you couldn’t ask for a better doctor to be with than Dr. Gojer.”

He said Gojer made him feel comfortable and let him know he cared during a scary situation.

Gojer said he was appreciative of Fannin's feedback.

“I think a lot of times people don’t realize that one of the most important things that you get from doing this line of work is appreciation from your patients,” he said. “That goes a long way.”

The secret to caring about a patient, Gojer said, is caring about a patient.

“You [have to] care for them and you just want everyone to do well and you want to take care of them and that’s important and I appreciate when people recognize that that’s the case,” he said.

Gojer said Fannin on the right medicine, has changed his lifestyle, his diet, stopped smoking and is exercising more.

“He’s doing all the right things and he’s doing well,” Gojer said.

Fannin said the whole situation has changed him and made him fight harder for his health.

“It’s been a life changer,” he said. “I haven’t eaten a hamburger since I left this hospital 27 days ago.”

While it’s been difficult to change everything that he was used to, Fannin said it’s been worth it, and to prevent others from being in his situation, he said it’s important to be proactive and get checked.