Urban Meyer helps open new Chest Pain E.R. at Shands at UF

He woke up at 4 a.m., his hand clasped to his chest. He tried to stand and tumbled to the floor.

Shelley Meyer’s voice quickens as she recalls that moment in December 2009, when she dialed 9-1-1 fearing something was seriously wrong with her husband, Urban Meyer, then coach of the University of Florida football team. Meyer was rushed to Shands at UF.

“I was really scared it might be his heart,” Shelley Meyer said, speaking to a crowd gathered at Shands at UF Wednesday to celebrate the grand opening of the new Chest Pain E.R. “I’m really happy to hear that if we had come here tomorrow, he would be taken to the exact right place … and that, as a wife of a patient, is very comforting to know.”

On Aug. 24, former Gator football coach Urban Meyer speaks with David Guzick, M.D., senior vice president of health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System; Michael Good, M.D., dean of the COM; Adrian Tyndall, M.D., chairman of the department of emergency medicine; and Jamie Conti, M.D., chief of cardiology, at the grand opening of the new Chest Pain E.R. at Shands. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Meyer, whose health issues have received much publicity, did not suffer a heart attack in 2009 when he came to Shands. He said he remembers being both relieved when doctors told him it was not a heart attack, and also frustrated by not knowing what was causing the intense chest pain he felt. He would later learn the problem was esophageal spasms.

“I was a guy who always tried to take care of myself, I was in control,” Meyer said. “I lost that control one day when I was lying on a gurney here at Shands. That is a very vulnerable state to be in, one you would not wish on your worst enemy, even if he is a Georgia Bulldog.”

Meyer also took the opportunity to thank physicians and Shands staff for helping not only him, but all patients who find themselves on a gurney, scared and in need of care.

“God bless you people. You do a lot for a lot of people.”

Located in the Shands Critical Care Center, the new Chest Pain E.R. houses eight beds dedicated to treating patients with chest pain and other symptoms of a heart condition. Last year, 9,000 patients were seen for chest pain at Shands at UF, representing about 13 percent of emergency department cases, said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands health system.

“Our goal is to do what is best for each of these patients and their families each time,” Guzick said. “Chest pain is frightening for the person experiencing it and for the family.”

The goal in the new Chest Pain E.R. is to evaluate patients within 10 minutes of their arrival, said Preeti Jois, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine and the Chest Pain E.R. medical director. An interdisciplinary team of emergency medicine specialists and cardiologists will quickly make a diagnosis and deliver appropriate treatment.

Two UF emergency medicine attending physicians and five emergency and cardiac-trained mid-level practitioners, including Shands advanced registered nurse practitioners and UF physician assistants, are dedicated to the unit. A nurse and an emergency physician trained in cardiovascular care will always be available.

“A system of care integrating the emergency physicians and cardiovascular physicians is essential to improving cardiac care in the nation’s emergency departments and hospitals,” Jois said. “The Chest Pain E.R. in Shands creates such an opportunity for Gainesville and the surrounding communities.”