East Bay woman who delayed trip to ER for fear of COVID-19 could've died from heart attack; artery 90% blocked

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News was the first to report a frightening drop in the number of patients at Bay Area emergency rooms. Doctors worried, patients with serious concerns were staying away for fear of the coronavirus. Walnut Creek's Andrea Gleason is one of those patients.

Gleason knew something was wrong, but with hospitals seemingly overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, she was afraid to go to the emergency room.

EXCLUSIVE: Patients with serious health problems avoiding ER over coronavirus concerns
"It was right in the center of my chest," said Gleason of the pain that plagued her for more than a week. "I was afraid of a New York scenario with lots of people in emergency and in the hallways and all."

Gleason's fear of COVID-19 was eventually pushed aside when the pain became unbearable.

"It was like a squeezing pressure, very painful and the more it happened," said Gleason, "the more painful it got. Until the last one, the pain went up under my jaw and I got nauseous."

Gleason finally went to emergency room at John Muir Hospital, where doctors quickly discovered she had an artery almost completely blocked.

"This is the blockage right here, so it's fat, then all of a sudden a 90 percent blockage," said Dr. Andrew Dublin, as he showed us Gleason's angiogram.

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Dublin performed the emergency stent procedure on Gleason, one he says probably could not wait, even one more day.

"I wish she had come in two weeks before when the chest pain first started," said Dublin, "but by the time she got to chest pain at rest, she absolutely needed to come in."

Gleason continued to worry about coronavirus even as she was on the operating table. Awake during her procedure, she even asked Dublin if she'd done the right thing by coming in.

"And he said, 'No, no, no...when you have those kinds of symptoms you need to be in, right now.'"

Gleason is sheltering at home with her husband. Besides a much healthier heart, she also got a COVID-19 test at the hospital. It was negative.

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