Man who survived heart attack warns against ER coronavirus fears

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A patient who had horrible chest pain but didn't want to go to the hospital because of fears over the coronavirus pandemic is warning others not to be afraid after doctors saved his life.

Deepak Gulati was having a heart attack, and had he waited much longer to seek treatment, he would not have survived.

"I started to get a tightness in my chest and I felt like I couldn't breathe," he said. "I had taken my blood pressure, and it had gone up from 125 to 180."

In fact, he said it felt like his chest was going to explode Saturday. Still, he was more concerned about something else.

"I told my wife, and she said, 'Do you want to go to the emergency room?'" he said. "And I said, 'Absolutely not. They have COVID-19 patients. I want nothing to do with this.'"

It took a lot of convincing to get Gulati to the emergency room at Mount Sinai, from not only his cardiologist, but also his wife -- who is a physician there.

""I literally had to persuade him, saying, 'No, you have to go to the emergency room. You are likely having heart attack," Dr. Annapoorna Kini said.

ER visits were strongly discouraged during the height of the pandemic -- effective messaging that perhaps worked too well. But now, doctors are struggling to get patients with COVID fears who are in crisis to get to emergency department.

"I had no fear of COVID," Gulati's wife, Dr. Rashmi Gulati, said. "It was more about his life."

The new messaging for patients is to consider the alternative.

"What I found is that the emergency room was almost empty," Deepak Gulati said. "There were maybe two people sitting there on one side."

In June of 2019, there were 250 ER patient visits a day. The average today is 175. So now, doctors want reluctant patients to consider the consequences of hesitation, which could be deadly.

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