Hawaii County mayor credits hospital’s cardiac lab with saving his life after heart attack

Mayor Roth's near-death heart attack

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth says suffering a major heart attack — shortly after taking office — has changed his life and his perspective.

“I’m a person that believes that everything happens for a reason, and when God has adversities, He also has something equal or better that He gives you,” Roth said.

“I believe there’s a reason for this and I’m optimistic looking forward.”

The 56-year-old former longtime prosecutor said he started feeling tightness in his chest 12 days ago. His wife took him to a nearby fire station and he was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

“On the ride to the hospital they told me, ‘We’re not going to sugarcoat it, you’re having a heart attack,’” Roth said.

Roth said while in the intensive care unit, his heart stopped and he had to be revived.

“About 2 o’clock in the morning, I had all these nurses and doctors coming in asking me if I was OK, I felt OK. But apparently my heart rhythm was going off and they ended up shocking me a couple of times,” he said.

Roth said the new cardiac catheterization lab at Hilo Medical Center is what saved his life.

Dan Brinkman, the hospital’s East Hawaii Regional CEO, agrees.

“The mayor is right, he probably wouldn’t have made it if the program wasn’t available,” he said.

Brinkman said the new “cath lab” has saved dozens of Hawaii County residents since it opened in 2019. “It’s basically a service that can stop people’s heart attacks and treat them when they’re having what people call ‘the big one,’” said Brinkman.

Adding to Roth’s heartbreak, he said his mother died during his hospital stay.

“The day after her birthday, that was kind of a hard thing to take,” he said.

When asked if he was still up for running the county, he responded, “Absolutely.”

Roth says he is touched by amount of support from his community.

“The outcry of support has just been overwhelming, and I just so appreciate it. I look forward to getting back to work but when the doctors say I can.”

Roth says he plans to devote more of his time and power to ensuring better healthcare options for everyone on Hawaii Island.

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