HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Thomas Gaines enjoyed his 2010 Thanksgiving dinner until a few hours after he left the table.
"I have acid reflux and the burning came up three times then I got up, and it felt like my chest just blew open. I went that day and they said it was GERD," said Gaines.
He thought the problem was more severe but was given medicine for his gastric reflux and sent home.
"The next Thursday I went back up, and the doctor told me it wasn't GERD that I had - it was a heart attack," he said.
Gaines had two stents put in, and he is the first person to receive an experimental implanted device that will warn him and doctors about a possible heart event.
It's all part of a two year study. Hopes are high that at the end of the study, it will be a new tool for cardiologists.
Dr. Scott Allison is the cardiologist who treated Gains.
"It's something that we can offer patients with certain diseases of the heart muscle, patients that have coronary artery disease or blockages in the arteries, patients who've had heart attacks and injury to the heart from that," said Dr. Allison.
The sooner a patient can get to a hospital, the less damage to the heart muscle.
"It goes in under the left collar bone. There's a wire that runs through the blood vessels down to the heart and monitors the heart rhythm all the time. If a patient develops a cardiac arrest, it shocks the heart right back into rhythm in a few seconds," added Allison.
It also monitors an internal EKG, looking for changes in blood flow. The device will vibrate until the patient gets to the ER. A minor change in blood flow sends a report to doctors the next morning, so doctors can call the patient and check on them. This is the first time such a device has been implanted in the U.S., under research protocol.
As for being a type of guinea pig, Gaines has his own feelings.
"I feel fortunate and blessed," he said.
The implanted devices are in about 30 people. They've only had one episode. That was with Mr Gaines, but they adjusted his medicine and he's doing well.