SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — For South Sioux City resident Aurelio Hernandez, the heart attack warning signs were subtle but he’s glad he paid attention to them.

Hernandez was working one morning when he felt tired. He went home to rest, but when he got home he felt shortness of breath and pain in his right arm.

“I couldn’t take the pain anymore, once it went from the right side over to the left. It was like a squeezing pain, it was just like a vice grip, it was just, it was bad,” said Hernandez.

A neighbor gave him a ride to the hospital where he got a chest x-ray. His left anterior descending artery was 100 percent blocked, a condition called a “widowmaker”.

“Not all patients with a widowmaker heart attack actually make it to the emergency room and make it out of the hospital,” said Dr. Gary Chan.

Dr. Chan is the general cardiologist at MercyOne Siouxland. He provided care for Hernandez. He said too many patients confuse heart attack symptoms for heartburn and that can be a deadly mistake.

“Time and time again we see a lot of patients with a widowmaker heart attack, but then they wait it out with devastating consequences,” Chan said.

After Hernandez’s blockage was removed, the road to recovery began and that involved a lot more than just physical therapy.

“It was just a life-changing experience. The dieting. The working. Exercising more. It was just a combination of things that just within a day had to change,” Hernandez said.

“I’m really happy for you. Lifestyle modification is easier said than done. Taking pills is easy, but then doing those things take real mental effort so thank you,” Chan said.

Hernandez graduated from rehab two weeks ago and is back home now. He said he’s thankful for the care he received and urges anyone who feels heart attack related symptoms to get checked out.