WARRENSBURG — When Gene Burden started having chest pain, it did not take long for his wife Donna to rush him to Western Missouri Medical Center’s Emergency Room.

Gene had a heart attack and this is the story of his recovery.

Recognizing the signs

In September 2019, the Burdens were coming home from a trip to Arkansas and Gene stated he had not felt well.

After sitting down for dinner that same evening, Gene stated he began experiencing intense chest pain.

As the Warrensburg police chief for 32 years, WMMC states Gene had experienced pressure in his chest before, but this pain was different – it would not go away and was getting worse.

Donna said she noticed his abnormal response to the pain and rushed him to WMMC’s Emergency Room.

Within a matter of minutes of Gene’s arrival, he was diagnosed with a STEMI – also known as a heart attack.

He was then taken into WMMC’s Level III trauma room, a room specifically designated for treating heart attacks, traumas and strokes.

There he received the medication needed to stop the damage to his heart.

WMMC information states a heart attack occurs when a part of the heart muscle does not receive enough blood.

Hospital information states the more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.

“I could not ask for any better care,” Gene said. “There were several people in the room running tests and Bryce Weir, RN, was with me the entire time. My pain went away quickly after receiving the medication.”

Gene received nitroglycerin and aspirin, common medications for heart attack patients to reduce blood clotting and help maintain blood flow.

Once Gene was stabilized and showing signs of recovery, he was transferred to Saint Luke’s for standard post-treatment care.

Ensuring long-term results

WMMC states heart attacks require immediate diagnosis and need immediate treatment.

WMMC’s Level III STEMI certification allows WMMC to diagnose and treat heart attacks to preserve the heart and prevent long-term damage.

After heart attack patients receive treatment and are stabilized, they are transferred to a Level I STEMI Center for a cardiac catheterization to diagnosis why the heart attack occurred.

“When I arrived at Saint Luke’s, WMMC had done everything that Saint Luke’s needed prior to arriving,” Gene said. “I was really grateful.”

Gene’s final diagnosis was medication and a recommendation for cardiac rehabilitation.

Recovery and rehabilitation

Gene’s provider at Saint Luke’s recommended that Gene begin his rehab program at WMMC’s Cardiac Rehab.

“I cannot say enough good things about Betsy and the other Rehab staff like Rachelle, Tyler and Laura,” Gene said. “They take care of people here. Betsy provides exceptional care to everyone in the program.”

His 12-week recovery journey would help to reduce heart attack risk factors through lifestyle changes, providing emotional support, education and exercise.

“I just can’t say enough good things about our hospital,” Gene said. “Our emergency room experience was just great. They have come a long way over the years and doing the right things – and I would recommend the Cardiac Rehab program to everyone.”

Achieving goals together

The last phase of Gene’s recovery at Cardiac Rehab was an optional routine that would continue his journey of heart health through accountability, safety and support.

Donna stated she saw how quickly Gene was gaining strength and talked with her physician about enrolling in the program alongside her husband.

“After my first few visits, I can already see improvement in my walking and I have more energy,” Donna said. “We can do this together, and we are so fortunate to have such a quality program nearby.”

Signs and risk factors of a heart attack

WMMC states that every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.

If someone notices the symptoms of a heart attack in themselves or someone else, call 911 immediately.

A quick response can reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscle and potentially save a life.

The five signs of a heart attack are:

Chest pain or discomfort

Feeling weak, light-headed or faint

Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back

Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders

Shortness of breath

The following habits are associated with a higher risk of a heart attack:

High blood pressure/ blood cholesterol



Lack of exercise

Obesity or poor diet

Excessive alcohol intake

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