Dennis SkinnerAs medical technician, when Dennis Skinner of Long Branch began to sweat and experience a rapid heartbeat and chest pain, he knew he needed to seek immediate medical attention.

“If it had been just one symptom, maybe I would have ignored it, but because I had the three symptoms, I knew it wasn’t a good sign,” says Dennis.

Immediately, Dennis went to Monmouth Medical Center’s Emergency Department, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, for treatment and monitoring. Blood tests confirmed he had suffered a heart attack

Treated initially at our Heart Center at Monmouth Medical Center, it was soon decided that Dennis would be transferred to the Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark for a cardiac catheterization.

During the catheterization it was discovered that Dennis had six major blockages in his arteries and a leaky mitral valve – all of which put strain on the heart muscle, placing Dennis’ heart and life at risk. To improve the blood flow to Dennis’ heart and fix the damaged mitral valve, cardiologists completed six coronary artery bypass grafts and a heart valve repair.

“It was a little different being on the patient side. I’ve been working in health care since I was 19 but something like this really makes you look at things differently - how you interact with, talk to and treat patients,” says Dennis.

Dennis returned home after recovering at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and at a rehabilitation center. Nearly five weeks after his heart surgery, he enrolled in the Heart Center at Monmouth Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program.

In addition to attending rehabilitation to build up his stamina and ability to function, Dennis also credits the experience with reminding him to slow down, be mindful of his body and watch what he eats.

“I had no symptoms whatsoever but maybe it was my body’s way of saying, ‘Hey, you need a rest,’ says Dennis.

Today, just more than halfway through his cardiac rehabilitation program, Dennis is looking forward to completing the program and returning to work in just a few weeks.

“I’m not going to let this keep me down,” he says.