Back in Play
How Jaclyn McGlone, an athletic 30-year-old soccer coach, survived a major heart attack and then worked her way back to the field, due in large part to the integrated care of Main Line Health’s Lankenau Heart Institute
by Bill Donahue

Jaclyn McGlone believes in miracles. She has to. The fact that she celebrated her 31st birthday earlier this month—on Friday the 13th—is nothing short of miraculous. After all, less than six months ago, it appeared as though her time on this earth would be cut short.

Since the age of four, McGlone had some of her most memorable events on the soccer field. She received All-Catholic League honors four years in a row while playing for Cardinal O’Hara High School. She was a four-year starter for the women’s soccer team at Temple University, having been named A-10 Rookie of the Week as a freshman and then Atlantic 10 Player of the Week. She then excelled as a coach, earning Lower Merion Soccer Club Girls Travel Team Coach of The Year honors in 2013.

Perhaps the most significant event occurred on Saturday, September 13, 2014, only this time it was significant for a much different reason. She remembers having felt ill the prior evening, with symptoms that persisted into Saturday morning. Despite how strangely she felt, she had no reason to suspect anything serious, so she ventured out to be with the girls from one of the two Lower Merion soccer teams she coaches.

McGlone was standing on the field when her life changed in an instant. She suffered a heart attack caused by excessive plaque that blocked the flow of blood to her heart, ultimately resulting in a condition known as sudden cardiac death. After realizing her predicament, the girls on her team raced to a nearby field, where they happened to find an ER physician who was able to provide CPR until emergency personnel arrived only a few moments later. As the ambulance rushed McGlone to Bryn Mawr Hospital—the nearest acute care facility—a team of cardiac care specialists was already making preparations to provide life-saving treatment.

As part of Main Line Health’s Lankenau Heart Institute, Bryn Mawr Hospital was perhaps the best possible destination in the Philadelphia area for someone in McGlone’s state. Established in 2013, the Lankenau Heart Institute brings together the clinical expertise of all four Main Line Health acute care hospitals: Bryn Mawr Hospital, Lankenau Medical Center, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital, along with its network of community cardiology practices. The integrated team combines all the strengths and resources of its individual members to provide a streamlined system that allows cardiovascular specialists to work together to make sure patients receive the right care, at the right time and in the most appropriate location to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Francis P. Day, M.D., Bryn Mawr Hospital’s chief of the Division of Cardiology, was the first physician to come into contact with McGlone. After pinpointing the source of the problem by reviewing the results of a CT scan of McGlone’s heart, Dr. Day performed an emergency catheterization. The location of the blockage was problematic, at the intersection of two vessels, so Dr. Day had to place two stents, all while closely monitoring McGlone’s blood pressure and oxygenation levels.

Although the stent procedure proved successful, complications arose. McGlone’s lungs filled with fluid as a result of the pressure from her failing heart. The team then decided to utilize an intra-aortic balloon pump, which is an auxiliary device designed to take over some of the heart’s normal workload. Despite this measure, the team grew increasingly concerned. “We were not sure if she would make it through the night,” Dr. Day recalls.

McGlone’s cardiac team, which also included Konstadinos Plestis, M.D., system chief, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery for Main Line Health/Lankenau Heart Institute, decided on ECMO as the best course of action. Short for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, ECMO provides both cardiac and respiratory support to patients such as McGlone, whose heart and lungs are too compromised to function effectively. “It put her heart at rest and allowed it to do what it could do, and it allowed her lungs to heal and get the oxygen in,” says Dr. Day. “That was the device that got her through the roughest part of her illness.”

Members of the Lankenau team came to Bryn Mawr Hospital to assist with her treatment. After she stabilized, McGlone was transferred to the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at Lankenau Medical Center, where she came into the care of Steven M. Domsky, M.D. Under his guidance, the cardiac team weaned her off ECMO over the course of several days, but kept her on a ventilator while her body recovered from the trauma. Eight days after the incident, the team decided it was safe to wake her from her medically induced coma.

“When I woke up, it was like nothing ever happened,” McGlone recalls. “I really had no recollection of anything, so I had to rely on my husband and parents to tell me about it. I had some cognitive issues, and my memory of recent events was not so firm, but that abated over time.”

Following discharge from Lankenau, she spent the next month at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital as an inpatient. Because of the intense therapy and progress she made in rehab, she was able to be discharged and transferred back into her normal activities quickly.

“It was a miracle she got through this,” Dr. Domsky says. “We were worried about her recovery, including her brain recovery, but she has made a dramatic recovery from that standpoint as well. It just took a little time.”

McGlone is hardly a typical heart attack patient, though her family did have a history of cardiac issues—namely, a mother with hypertension, a father with high cholesterol, and a grandfather who had suffered a heart attack and needed bypass surgery. Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too many people tell themselves, “It’s not going to happen to me.”

“Women get [heart attack] symptoms just like men, but I think women are conditioned to think it’s something else other than heart disease,” Dr. Day says. “No one would expect a 30-year-old soccer coach and athlete to come down with a blocked artery in the standard sense. People should recognize that heart disease manifests itself in a number of different ways.”

McGlone exhibited “classic heart attack signs”—intense pain in the chest, neck and arms, for example—the night before her heart attack, but her age, gender and good health prevented her from suspecting cardiac trouble. The “classic” signs occur in only a quarter of patients, according to Dr. Day, with atypical symptoms including pain in the wrist, back and neck, even indigestion.

The moral of the story is to recognize the potential signs and, just as importantly, to seek treatment when and if they do arise. In the past year, Dr. Domsky says he has encountered four patients with severe coronary disease who were younger than 32 years old. He suggests that younger people with a family history get a calcium score to detect early coronary disease, which enables physicians to treat the disease before it reaches the level of causing symptoms.

As for McGlone, she has largely returned to the life she had prior to her heart attack, though she does have to take medication to lower her cholesterol and to prevent any further cardiac episodes. She’s back to work full time at her job as an IT specialist for Universal Health Services in King of Prussia. She’s back coaching her soccer teams, with her sights set on spring, when the teams will return to the outdoor fields. She continues to build her strength with regular visits to cardiac rehab at Bryn Mawr Hospital. She has started to run again.

“Fortunately, I’m still here to tell this story, and hopefully it will just be a memory,” she says. “The people at Lankenau and Bryn Mawr who saved me do what they do day in and day out. I can live my life because they worked so hard and so well to help me get through it all. If anyone can learn anything from my story, I would be very thankful.”

For more information on Main Line Health’s Lankenau Heart Institute, visit

Photograph by Jay Wiley; additional reporting by Gina Garippo