- Aubrey Bond
At age 63, Aubrey Bond learned his cholesterol was entirely too high. His LDL (bad cholesterol) was at 254, placing him far away from the optimal LDL score of 100 or below. His cardiologist recommended cardiac rehab, a program of 36 exercise classes conducted by West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center. After two months of cardiac rehab, his cholesterol was down to 178 and continues on a downward trend today. Having graduated from the program, Aubrey is now in the maintenance phase, exercising three days per week.
"I have exercised for years, but through cardiac rehab, I have learned that there is a proper way to exercise and that matters," says Aubrey.
Raised in Denmark, TN, Aubrey has lived in Brownsville for many years. "The cardiac rehab program is well-worth my drive to Jackson." Aubrey has been married 43 years and has five children and six grandchildren. He spent 35 years in public education, working in leadership for Fayette County Schools, the State of Tennessee and Memphis City Schools. He then spent four years in private education with Stanford University in California. Aubrey has also been a business owner for 40 years. He attends Browns Creek Missionary Baptist Church and is President of Volunteer Corvette Club of West Tennessee.
"I can stay busy because my energy level has improved tremendously thanks to cardiac rehab," says Aubrey. "As you get older, sometimes pains in your body come on so gradually that you don't notice they're there. You don't even realize that you weren't in peak physical condition anymore until you start to feel better."
"The staff at WTHVC Cardiac Rehab care about people and go out of their way to provide quality care. Their coaching and nurturing have made me feel 15 years younger."
- LaTonya Bryson
LaTonya Bryson leads a busy life. She is employed as a vascular tech at Advanced Cardiovascular and also works as needed in the cath lab at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. She and her husband Rico, who works for the Jackson Fire Department, have two children. Zaria, who is a senior in high school, and 12-year-old Kegan keep LaTonya busy with their cheerleading and football schedules. She has refused to let her battles with her health keep her down for long.
"Giving up is never an option," says LaTonya.
Her problems began early. LaTonya was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 at the age of 24. Her daughter was nine months old when LaTonya found the lump. She was originally told it was fibrotic tissue, but her concern that something else was wrong sent her back to the doctor. She began chemo and radiation in January 2001 and earned her degree as a respiratory therapist after she finished her treatments.
LaTonya was diagnosed with stage 3b ovarian cancer on October 31, 2016, and she had a hysterectomy and started treatment in November 2016. She was doing well until February, when she noticed she could not walk upstairs and only felt like lying down. She originally blamed her chemo treatments with her weakness, but when she ended up in the emergency room with a heart rate in the 140s, severely short of breath, she knew something was wrong. An echocardiogram confirmed her heart function was at 30-35%, and she feared she might need a defibrillator. Her cardiologist recommended they try to treat the problem with medication and cardiac rehab first, and by July, her function was up to 55%.
"My husband is my rock," says LaTonya. "He's always there for everything, as is my mother. I am so blessed to have my family and excellent doctors, as well as the support from my church family at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. Christ is always my comfort keeper."
LaTonya has returned back to her busy schedule, working first part-time and then full-time. She sees her cardiologist regularly and continues taking her medication as described.
"It's amazing how quickly I've returned to feeling like myself after having such poor heart function. The doctors and staff at WTHVC knew exactly what I needed to get back to living the life I love."
- Wanda Shytles
Wanda Shytles is no stranger to heart problems. The now 70-year-old had her first heart attack in August 1991. She had others in 2002, 2016 and 2017. She also has issues with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and had an aortic valve repair in 2011. Wanda, who is a five-year breast cancer survivor, has also suffered from mini strokes and chronic kidney disease. All this, and she still lives an active life. She credits West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center's cardiac rehab program with her improved health.
"When I started cardiac rehab, my heart function was at 50%," says Wanda. "I couldn't walk four minutes without getting out of breath and stopping."
She began the program in May, and her heart function is now 100%. She has also lost 24 pounds due not only to exercise but also to improved nutrition. Wanda carefully follows the suggestions of her WTHVC nutritionist who removed salt, sugar and caffeine from her diet. She has also made good friends through the rehab program.
Wanda has been married for 52 years and has two daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She also loves to draw. She previously worked at the Bemis Cotton Mill for 20 years and was employed by Proctor & Gambill when she had to leave due to her health. She is happy to be enjoying her life more since starting cardiac rehab.
"If your doctor recommends WTHVC Cardiac Rehab to you, do it. I didn't realize I needed to exercise in order to feel better."
- Franklin Dearth
Health is something at the forefront of 69-year-old Franklin Dearth's mind. An avid runner, Franklin has completed 27 marathons, winning four. He was therefore frustrated when he noticed that some days, running was just too hard for him. His heart rate was alarmingly high. He knew he needed to see a physician.
Franklin saw a cardiologist who confirmed that Franklin was suffering from Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), meaning that his heart rate was irregular and therefore causing poor blood flow. While many individuals suffer from more obvious symptoms of AFib, Franklin's overall good health had prevented him from realizing he had a problem.
Doctors first performed an electrical cardioversion, meaning they used a low-voltage current to regulate Franklin's heartbeat. This worked for two weeks before his heart returned to AFib. They tried again, only for the cardioversion to fail. His doctors then performed an ablation, a minimally-invasive procedure in which they treated parts of the heart tissue that were causing irregular beats.
Franklin's heart was in rhythm for about a year until he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a condition that messed up his heart rhythm. He had another ablation, which worked for two weeks. His doctors decided to try cardioversion again about six months ago, and Franklin's heart has been beating normally ever since. Such difficulties with regulation are common for AFib patients, which is why WTHVC has the Rhythm Clinic. Franklin visits the clinic every three months, and he's back to running again.
"The doctors and staff at the WTHVC Rhythm Clinic are the best I have ever seen. They take all the time in the world to listen to you and explain your care."
- James Proudfit
Nine years ago, James Proudfit was traveling in South Carolina when he had a heart attack. This resulted in four stents and time in cardiac rehab. Recently, an echocardiogram indicated it was time for a valve replacement for the 82-year-old, and a heart cath confirmed these suspicions. James's cardiologist shared with him about the option of a TAVR, or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement. The team at West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center determined he was a candidate for this minimally invasive procedure.
TAVR provides candidates with an alternative to open heart surgery that cuts down on hospital stay time and is easier for those who are considered high-risk for more invasive procedures. Scott Sweat, WTHVC's Valve Clinic Coordinator, met with James and his wife Rachel to work through their questions.
"Prior to surgery, I had a three hour pre-op session to discuss information relative to risks by my surgeon and anesthesiologist and final discussions about the surgery with Scott," says James.
James had his surgery on July 10 and was back home 48 hours later. He was able to attend church and sing in the choir the following Sunday and the next week was back singing for the residents at the Tennessee Veterans Home where he volunteers each day.
Since his procedure, James has traveled back home to Greensburg, PA for his 65th high school reunion. He is active in the Methodist Church and a member of the Humboldt Music Club and the SonShiners. James also walks one mile five days per week.
"I am so grateful to all the staff at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital for the loving and professional care I received during my brief stay," says James. "I would recommend the TAVR surgery for any potential candidate, and there's no better place to have the procedure than at WTHVC."
- Brown Smith
Brown Smith had his first heart attack in 1981 at the age of 30. At the time, Jackson had little to offer as far as cardiac care. There was no cardiologist and no cath lab. He spent 13 days in Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, receiving care from the family practice residency director before going to Memphis for a heart cath six weeks later. His cardiac issues had begun.
In 1995, Brown's symptoms returned. He had maintained regular visits with a cardiologist who arrived in Jackson shortly after his heart attack, so he made an appointment to have his pain checked. A stress test revealed that blockages were causing pressure in his chest, and he had open-heart surgery to perform six bypasses. Three of them closed off a couple of years later, so he had more stents put in at that time.
In February 2017, his symptoms returned in the form of chest pain, and Brown had a stent put in through his wrist. He went on to graduate from cardiac rehab and now participates in the cardiac rehab maintenance program at the hospital.
"I have seen Jackson go from little to no cardiac care to a place where we are now one of the leading cardiac centers in our region," says Brown. "Over the last 30+ years, we've gone from no cath lab to performing minimally invasive procedures. Short of transplants, there's not much we can't do here."
The Selmer native is no stranger to heart problems. His father, a basketball coach and high school principal, had passed away from heart disease at age 55. His youngest sister had bypass surgery at the age of 56, and his grandson was born with Tetralogy of Fallot or "blue baby syndrome." After surgery at age four months, Brown's grandson now leads a normal, active life.
Brown enjoys spending time with his wife Jane, his two adult daughters Sarah and Carrie-Brown and his four grandchildren. Retired from a 30-year career at State Farm, Brown also spends his time playing golf, watching sports and exercising.
"Cardiac care has come so far," he says. "We always thought we had to go to Memphis or Nashville back then, but not many people there receive the level of cardiac care we have here in West Tennessee today."
- James Cook
James Cook had no prior history of heart problems. The 57-year-old Henry County resident was helping a friend move some furniture when he suddenly collapsed mid-sentence. His friend called 911 and began performing CPR. Within minutes, Henry County EMS had arrived on the scene and worked to stabilize James for transport to Henry County Medical Center.
Upon arrival at the emergency room, James was quickly evaluated by a physician who made the call for transportation to a major cardiac center. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital (JMCGH) was the nearest option, so he was soon transported to Jackson via helicopter by Air Evac Lifeteam.
"I just remember bits and pieces, really," says James. "I kept going in and out of consciousness."
The cardiac team at JMCGH was waiting on James when he arrived. He was rushed into the Cardiac Cath Lab, where he received three stents in his heart. During his procedure, he had a light stroke, and his heart flat-lined the fourth time. Thankfully, he was in the hands of the experienced heart team at West TN Heart and Vascular Center, and they brought him back.
James was placed into a medically induced coma and treated with hypothermic protocol over the days that followed. This meant that his caregivers used ice blankets to bring his body temperature down to give his body time to begin healing and preserve his functions. James went from showing no brain activity to waking up with normal cognitive functions.
"It's amazing that I don't have any damage," says James. "I know I am supposed to be here."
After almost four weeks in JMCGH, James returned home. He is currently undergoing cardiac rehab in Paris three times a week in order to strengthen his heart. He is set to graduate from cardiac rehab by the end of March.
James regularly visits his cardiologist and hopes to eventually be released to return to the plant where he has worked for almost 38 years. He admits that he has to take things easier, but he is ready to resume hunting, fishing and gardening again when he can.
"I received excellent care-both in Henry County and in Jackson," James says. "Everyone communicated so well with me."
Bryan Webb was an active man in his late 40s, busy with his job, with his family, with hunting, music, and more. He seemed in good health. The married father of two had never smoked and wasn’t overweight.
In the summer of 2015, Bryan was doing yard work when he experienced shortness of breath. He attributed this to the warm temperature. What Bryan didn’t realize, however, was that his body was warning him that he had a problem.
Over the next few weeks, he started experiencing chest and arm pain. “I’m fine,” Bryan kept telling himself. “I don’t need to see a doctor.”
As the pains continued, he began to change his mind, but he never had the chance to make an appointment. On August 29, he sat straight up in bed at 6 a.m. He woke up his wife. “I told her, ‘I think I’m having a heart attack,’ ” as pain pressured down on his chest.
Bryan’s wife called an ambulance. At Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, he had a heart catheterization and West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center doctors found a 99.9% blockage in the main artery at the front of Bryan’s heart. Known as a “widow maker” for the way such blockages often lead to sudden massive heart attacks, Bryan’s blockage was cleared the next day with a single bypass surgery.
As part of his recovery, Bryan was prescribed 12 weeks in Cardiac Rehab, which he still attends three times a week even though he has already graduated from the program. “I am a firm believer in the Cardiac Rehab program; it starts you out slowly and builds you back up.” Before surgery, Bryan’s heart output was just 30%, but his last echocardiogram revealed his current output is normal.
WTHVC doctors attribute Bryan’s heart attack to heredity—his father had quadruple bypass two years before Bryan’s surgery. Still, his treatment and new lifestyle have given him a renewed chance at life. He is pleased with his progress. “I’m in better shape now than I was 15 years ago, and I credit that to my doctors for putting me on the path to good health.”
Seven years ago, Herman Watlington was 89 years old and playing his fourth game of golf for the week. When he reached the 11th green, he passed out. His fellow golfers called an ambulance. He went to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, where doctors determined that Herman needed a new heart valve or else he would not live beyond the next two years. In someone of Herman’s advanced age, aortic valve replacement is rare because of the risks, but given his good health, he elected to proceed with the surgery.
Less than 30 days later, Herman and two of his brothers, all World War II veterans, took a one-day honor flight to Washington D.C. to tour historic monuments. “My doctors said I was well enough to go, and I wouldn’t have missed it,” he said.
Herman was assigned to Cardiac Rehab as part of his recovery, and he still attends three days a week at age 97. The facility, at JMCGH, is a gym where nurses monitor the pulse and blood pressure of each patient. Herman enjoys hand and foot exercises and putting in time on the stationary bicycle.
“The quality of my life is still so good thanks to the care I get,” said Herman. “I credit Cardiac Rehab with keeping me in shape.”
Herman enjoys reading non-fiction books and playing solitaire on his iPad, and he still plays a few holes of golf on occasion. He has two daughters and a late son and five grandchildren, ranging from dentists to a lawyer to business people.
His three mornings a week at Cardiac Rehab are an important part of his life as well. “I love the staff at Cardiac Rehab and the camaraderie of the whole bunch—I know everyone’s names.”
Olivia Morris was only 21 years old and pregnant with her first child when she began experiencing cardiac problems. She was 32 weeks pregnant when she visited her physician and complained of a headache that had lasted longer than two weeks. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
Because of the danger that this condition presented to both Olivia and her unborn son, her doctor scheduled a Cesarean for her three days later at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. They delivered her son, who spent the next 2.5 weeks in the NICU due to his prematurity.
Olivia went home, only to return to the emergency room 12 hours later, unable to breath. West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center doctors discovered 21 liters of fluid around her heart and lungs. “My heart couldn’t handle my pregnancy,” she said.
Olivia spent 36 hours in ICU and another six days in JMCGH before going home. While there, she was given a diuretic to get the excess fluid out of her chest. Her WTHVC physicians released her with prescription medication and a required 12-week cardiac rehab program.
“My doctor told me to lose weight to help myself, especially if I would like to give my son a little brother or sister one day,” said Olivia.
The stay-at-home mom has followed these orders, now adhering to a low-sodium diet along with her exercise regimen.
“This can happen to anyone. Educate yourself. I didn’t know. Cardiac disease does not discriminate based on age.”
Phyllis Marshall is a survivor. She has survived cancer, open-heart surgery, heart stents, diabetes and a stroke.
A 10-year cancer survivor, Phyllis and her best friend started walking for exercise. She began to notice pain in her chest every time she walked, so she made an appointment with her doctor.
Her doctor sent her to a cardiologist who performed a heart catheterization that found multiple blockages. West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center cardiovascular surgeons performed coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) resulting in four heart bypasses.
Even with treatment for the blockages her diabetes increased her risk for cardiac events and two months later Phyllis says her chest started hurting and she started sweating. She took an aspirin and decided to go to the emergency room, where she learned she was having a heart attack. A stent was placed and the next day she went home.
Several months later Phyllis had a second stent placed to open up another artery that was completely blocked.
“Jackson-Madison County General Hospital gave me the best care. They did an excellent job and Cardiac Rehab gave me back my energy, my strength and I began to feel whole again.”
Phyllis worked with a dietitian at the hospital after open heart surgery to create a meal plan that addressed both her heart problems and her diabetes.
Diana McConnell has faced health challenges. She first battled inoperable lung cancer in 2005 and again in 2014 with chemotherapy and radiation. In addition, she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For all these reasons, she found herself struggling to breathe well. Her pulmonologist suggested she attend pulmonary rehab.
Pulmonary rehab, a workout experience that is supervised by health care professionals, allows participants to focus on learning to breathe better and get oxygen to their muscles while utilizing treadmills, bicycles and rowing machines.
Over one year later, Diana has seen major progress. “I couldn’t walk to my mailbox or stand up on a stool to get something off of the top shelf,” she says. “I have so much more energy now, and my husband tells me all the time what a difference the program has made.”
“My friends say I’m like a cork; you can push me down, but I always pop back up.”
She is now in the maintenance segment of the program, attending class twice a week for a maximum of two hours per session.
“We’re a family, and we understand one another’s struggles,” says Diana of her fellow rehab participants.
Diana sees her pulmonologist every six months and appreciates the way her doctors work together to improve her health. “What’s not to like about my doctors?” she asks.
The 68-year-old is retired, but she stays busy—making and selling greeting cards, cross-stitching, volunteering and spending time with family. She carries pulmonary rehab brochures and passes them along to anyone she notices who might need the program.
“I totally disagree with anyone who thinks you have to go to Memphis or Nashville to receive great care. I’m not from this area, but I truly believe I ended up here so that I would be a West Tennessee Healthcare patient in my time of need.”
Photographer Wayne Holmes was at a local college preparing to photograph a class of nursing students when he had a stroke.
The previous week, he had gone to convenient care with a rapid heart rate. They sent him to the emergency room, where a stress test suggested his heart was functioning properly. The following Tuesday, he was unloading photography equipment from his car when he realized something was wrong with his right eye and ear. Unable to speak properly, he made it inside the building before collapsing. He woke up surrounded by nursing students who called 911.
“I was so blessed to have been where I was when this happened,” says Wayne.
When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the stroke team was ready. Wayne underwent a CAT scan to pinpoint the exact location of the blood clot in his brain before a 30-minute procedure to remove the clot. His speech returned to normal immediately, and his vision and hearing issues were soon corrected. He came home from the hospital two days later.
“I was fortunate; Jackson-Madison County General Hospital is one of the few hospitals of its size that performs this stroke procedure,” says Wayne.
At age 65, Wayne is thankful he can continue his work and life with his wife, children and three grandchildren without limitations. He now takes blood thinner in order to prevent another stroke from occurring.
When Beverly Hayes experienced breathing trouble and pain in her chest, she thought she was suffering from pneumonia. An x-ray revealed a spot in the upper left lobe of her lung. More tests revealed the area was cancerous, and Beverly soon underwent a lung lobectomy to remove 2/3 of her lung.
“My family and I were devastated with my diagnosis, but when we realized how positive the outcome would be after I had the surgery, we were so grateful,” she says.
Beverly experienced a little pain immediately following her procedure, but she has healed well. “I still have to rest more than I used to, but it’s only been a few months. My surgeon explained it would take some time before I got my strength back.”
She had to learn to breathe normally again, but she is happy she never needed a breathing machine.
Beverly felt her doctors were plainspoken and clear in their instructions both before and after her procedure. She was left with no need for further treatment because all of her cancer was removed, and she has annual x-rays to make sure she continues to remain
At 69, Beverly is excited to enjoy more time with her daughters and grandchildren. The retired office manager also likes to sew and garden.
“I am so pleased with the outcome of my surgery and the care I received in the hospital.”
Paul Flippen had a history of cardiac problems. He had stents put in several years ago, with a heart attack and two more stents three years later. When he noticed his energy was low and he was having difficulty breathing, he decided to take precautions and made an appointment with his cardiologist. The 86-year-old needed a new heart valve, and his doctor decided that a TAVR, or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, was the way to go.
This new, innovative procedure offered at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, provides candidates with an alternative to open heart surgery that cuts down on hospital stay time and is easier for those who are considered high-risk for more invasive surgeries. Paul had the procedure done on a Monday and was home the following Wednesday. His level of pain was very low, and his experience at the hospital was great.
“The doctors and nurses who cared for me during my procedure are some of the finest people I have ever met,” says Paul.
Now he continues to see his cardiologist regularly and appreciates their open channel of communication. “He always lets me know what to expect.”
Paul’s family is thankful for his renewed energy. He is married with four sons, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. A woodworker who also enjoys fishing, he retired from an aluminum plant in 1990 and now devotes his time to his family and hobbies. Exercise is also key. “I spend up to 45 minutes a day on the cardio machine I have in my house, but I am careful not to overdo it.”
Derrick Britt went to see his cardiologist for what he thought would be a routine stress test. The results showed that he needed to have a heart catheterization, so he did just that on Good Friday. The test revealed three blockages. In order to avoid putting a lot of metal in his heart with three stents, Derrick’s cardiothoracic surgeon performed coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), a type of surgery that improves blood flow to the heart. A week after the procedure, he was out shopping, and he returned to work three weeks later and then began the cardiac rehab program.
“My pain level was never too high,” says Derrick about his procedure.
While in the hospital, Derrick’s doctors diagnosed him with diabetes. With their instructions on how to take care of himself, his health improved all around. He has lost more than 50 pounds after adjusting his diet and exercise.
“From ICU to the second floor to cardiac rehab, every person I have encountered at West Tennessee Healthcare has been nothing but nice and helpful. It’s clear that my doctors and their staff care about me and want to keep me informed.”
At 54, Derrick was active. He enjoyed his work as a bail bondsman, something he had done since 1979, and when he wasn’t working, he liked to golf, swim and travel. He is still living that same active lifestyle today, although he feels even better than he did before his surgery. “I find motivation every day at cardiac rehab when I see the people around me, of all different ages, exercising and taking care of themselves.”
Derrick encourages people to be proactive. “I had no symptoms, no pain, nothing to make me think I had any blockages. My story has been an inspiration to my friends, and that’s why I want to continue to share about my experience.”
Richard Fite had always worked out and considered himself to be in great shape. He began noticing some discomfort and tightness in his chest that he attributed to a recent increase in weight lifting. Still, he mentioned it to his cardiologist, who performed a heart catheterization to make sure all was normal.
That was on a Monday. By Wednesday, Richard was undergoing open-heart surgery to repair three blockages. He was in a private room the next day and was home by Sunday.
“The whole thing was just surreal,” says Richard. “It happened so fast.” Because he ate well and exercised regularly, doctors attributed Richard’s condition to genetics.
Both Richard’s cardiologist and his cardiothoracic surgeon made sure he was informed in a manner that was both personal and professional. “They each spent time with my family and me, making sure we understood what was wrong and how they were going to fix my heart.”
Two months later, Richard began cardiac rehab where he could work out under the supervision of health care professionals. He now exercises at home having graduated from cardiac rehab but is grateful to his surgeon for using a titanium plate in his chest for extra stability and strength so that he can continue lifting weights.
Richard, who recently retired from his role as CEO of H&M Company Inc., has returned to what he enjoys most: hunting and spending time with his wife, children, and three granddaughters. His cardiologist is monitoring his heart to see if he can begin coming off of some of his medications.
“The whole experience was scary, but everyone from the cleaning staff to the nurses’ aides to my physicians was concerned about my comfort. I hear people say if they need heart surgery, they plan to go to Nashville or some other larger city, but I couldn’t have been better taken care of or more satisfied anywhere else.”
-Janice & James Douglas
Janice was running her vacuum one Saturday in February 2014 when she suffered an episode of weakness. A visit with a cardiologist revealed she was suffering from atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. Janice went to another hospital where her heart was shocked twice in an effort to correct its rhythm, but this did not work.
Meanwhile, weeks went by, and her energy level and breathing worsened. She eventually chose to come to WTHVC at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. An arteriogram performed by a WTHVC cardiologist revealed that she needed coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery to treat six blockages and the massive blood clots that had formed in her heart. Janice spent almost a month in the hospital but says, “I couldn’t have asked for better nurses or staff to care for me, and I have felt so much better since my surgery.”
Around six months later, James made an appointment with his cardiologist for a leg study due to his neuropathy and leg pain. While there, he had an EKG that led to other tests, and his doctors suggested he needed surgery as well. He went into the hospital that very day and later had surgery to repair two heart blockages and replace a valve. “The doctors at WTHVC did as well as anyone could for us and could not have been more thorough,” says James.
James and Janice now see their cardiologists every six months. Janice openly praises the care they receive: “I couldn’t say enough good things about our doctors if I could find the words. We can talk to them freely about anything.”
James is back to gardening and watching birds, while Janice stays busy around the house. The couple will soon be married 67 years. “People can look at us and see that even though we’re older, there’s hope because there’s life,” says Janice. Both enjoy spending time with their three children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “Family means a lot to us,” says James.
A few months ago, the couple had one of their cardiologists over for lunch to celebrate his birthday with a home cooked meal because, as Janice says, “Our doctors are like family now.”
When Martha Coleman had open-heart surgery in 2005, she knew she would eventually need a heart valve replacement. What she was not aware of at the time, however, was that by the time she needed this procedure, WTHVC would be offering a new TAVR procedure that made replacing her heart valve much easier and safer.
By March 2014, the active public accountant and master gardener knew she needed to have something done. She was having difficulty breathing and walking long distances. Her cardiologist sent her to see a cardiothoracic surgeon who told her about TAVR, or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.
TAVR provides candidates with an alternative to open heart surgery that cuts down on hospital stay time and is easier for those who are considered high-risk for more invasive procedures. Martha says she never had questions about the procedure, due in part to the work of Scott Sweat, Valve Clinic Coordinator. “He explained the TAVR to me so well.”
Martha acknowledges surgery never sounds exciting but is sometimes necessary. “If you need it, you can go through with it. You know what you need to do when you’re sick.” She came through her procedure well, only spending five days in the hospital.
She credits the doctors at WTHVC for making sure she received the best possible care. “The doctors made me well. I think they’re a wonderful team. They recognize you. They identify with you.”
Martha, inspired by her time as a patient at JMCGH, has now offered to come back and volunteer at the hospital and is preparing for an orientation course in patient relations. She has also returned to work, traveling and teaching her 5th and 6th grade girls’ Sunday School class. “I’m always on the move. If my car doesn’t move from underneath my carport, my neighbors are wondering what is going on with me.”
Jeff Beaty thought he was relatively healthy. He had worked for Kellogg’s for twenty years and enjoyed collecting and restoring classic cars in his spare time. When he woke up with a splitting headache one morning, he pushed through the pain and headed to work at 5:30 AM like usual. After all, as Jeff says, “Who thinks he’s going to have a heart attack at age 43?”
Everything changed when he went to Rock’n Dough Pizza for lunch and fell out after walking through the door. Miraculously, inside the restaurant sat a CPR instructor, a nurse and a physician. Their quick actions kept Jeff alive, as they did CPR and utilized an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) from the LIFT Center next door. After Medical Center EMS arrived, the paramedics made the lifesaving decision to start Hypothermia Protocol, which saved Jeff’s brain and heart tissue. Once he reached JMCGH, he spent the next 14 days in a medically induced coma after surgery. Jeff was not supposed to live, and yet he was back at work 83 days after his heart attack, having suffered no brain damage. Jeff cannot thank those who worked to save his life in those critical moments enough. He tells everyone, “CPR works.”
In the months following his heart attack and hospital stay, Jeff has experienced wonderful treatment from his WTHVC cardiologist. “He has helped me get healthy, and his office staff are helpful, friendly and accessible.”
Since his heart attack, Jeff maintains his life has changed for the better. He has quit smoking and says he can climb flights of stairs better than before. He still works the same shift, and his interest in car restoration hasn’t changed, with one notable exception.
“Now, I drive my old cars instead of sitting and looking at them. I’ve always been happy to be here, but I don’t wait to live anymore.”
On Monday, May 18, 2015, Marsha Cole came home from her job as a cook, just like an ordinary day. She went into her bedroom and sat down on her bed, sorting through some papers. When she went to stand up, however, she fell and was unable to get herself up from the floor. Marsha was able to reach the phone, and she called her sister, who quickly realized Marsha’s speech was slurring. When her sister arrived, she noticed that Marsha’s face was distorted on one side, and she feared Marsha had just been the victim of a stroke.
Marsha was rushed to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital where an MRI revealed that Marsha did indeed have a blood clot on her brain. The Interventional Radiologists with WTHVC successfully removed the blood clot.
"I know my doctors are concerned about me,” says Marsha. “They are upfront with me and tell me what I need to do and don't need to do. Everyone has been so wonderful to me."
While Marsha was in the hospital, her WTHVC physicians realized her heart was also in need of help. Within weeks of her stroke, Marsha had open-heart surgery and had three valves replaced in her heart.
Marsha is now on blood thinner and has follow-up visits with her cardiologist, who continues to monitor her closely. “I feel so much better than I did before,” says Marsha. “I can tell a difference for sure.”
When Ashia Wynn gave birth to her second daughter, she had a normal pregnancy and birth experience much like she had with her first. Within a few days, however, she went to the doctor with symptoms of chills, coughing and difficulty breathing. She was initially diagnosed with a bad cold, but after she continued to worsen, she went to her local ER only to be sent to JMCGH. Ashia was then diagnosed with pregnancy-induced cardiomyopathy after a CT scan revealed her heart was enlarged.
“I was blindsided,” Ashia says about receiving the news. “My condition is rare and scary, but it could happen to anyone.”
Treatment for Ashia’s condition includes twelve weeks of cardiac rehab, heart medication and fluid pills. She must also monitor her blood pressure and fluid intake while maintaining a low-sodium diet. Ashia also has to use a LifeVest Wearable Defibrillator for six months as a means of monitoring her heart and protecting against the dangers of sudden cardiac arrest.
Ashia readily admits her life is very different than before. The mother of three-year-old and three-month-old daughters was constantly on the go, attending nursing school and working a job sitting with disabled people and senior citizens. “I have had to restructure my life. I have to pay attention to what I eat and how I exercise in a way that was not necessary before I was diagnosed.”
She has nothing but good things to say about her WTHVC cardiologist and the staff who assist with her care. “My doctor is great at explaining things to me and giving me details,” says Ashia. “Whenever I call my cardiologist’s office, I know someone will be in touch with me soon.”
Ashia is grateful for the opportunity to improve her health. “I have had to stop and change the way I do things, but it’s okay, because I am here and capable of making these changes.”
After a sudden heart attack, Norwood needed immediate bypass surgery to save his life.
Norwood says, “I have been young all of my life.” He has been a leader in the Jackson community since 1965. Since then, Norwood has served as a Jackson Chamber Red Coat Ambassador, real estate agent, songwriter, storyteller and avid table tennis player.
Norwood and his wife travel often. One such trip, he got sick with the flu and after recovering, he continued not to feel well. He never considered heart trouble, but he was not able to do his regular workout due to shortness of breath and knew something was different. A few days later, after a busy day of table tennis doubles and meetings, Norwood had what he thought was heartburn. The following morning he woke up and got out of bed, only to collapse while experiencing a heart attack. Norwood’s wife was quick to respond and called 911, and shortly after, he was taken to the JMCGH Emergency Department. Norwood remembers waking up and recognizing the emergency doctor from his church. The doctor then informed Norwood that he had a heart attack and needed bypass surgery immediately.
A WTHVC cardiothoracic surgeon was able to save Norwood’s life with three bypasses that day. Norwood declares, “I was not in a lot of pain after, but I had to relearn a lot.” In just two weeks after surgery, Norwood was able to walk on his own and has since graduated from Cardiac Rehab. When asked what he would tell people about his experience, Norwood says, “I received care just like the WTHVC commercial says. They were caring experts and treated me like a king.”
“WTHVC and JMCGH gave me a little more time before I get to meet the Lord, and I am very grateful for that,” concludes Norwood about his heart story. He plans to continue living his full life with his “love of life” attitude. “Life is not easy, but it is simple,” he says in a grateful response to his recovery from the heart attack and surgery. “Love God with all your heart. Love others as yourself.”
At 62, Carl Seely was a busy attorney who still found time to work out five times a week. His family had a history of fatal heart attacks, but Carl’s blood pressure stayed in the normal range and he didn’t see the need to get his heart checked out.
Looking back he says, “I was not aware that I was approaching a cliff.”
After an all-day trial near Thanksgiving 2013, Carl felt a little dizzy and had to lean up against a wall to steady himself. That evening at home he couldn’t get comfortable, but went to bed.
“Around 11:30 p.m. I woke my wife up and said we should go to the ER. I had felt something inside – it was not chest pain, just something different.”
At Jackson-Madison County General Hospital’s Chest Pain Center, Carl was told he was in the middle of a heart attack.
“My first response was to feel annoyed; I didn’t want to be hospitalized. But I was happy they were able to do the heart cath so soon.”
After the heart cath, a West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist said Carl needed triple bypass surgery.
“They performed the surgery the very next day. I was walking around within a day after the surgery but then complications from heart rhythm irregularity and from blood thinner medication set me back a couple of times.”
“There is excellent staff in the cardiac unit,” Carl says. “They were very attentive and explained the complications so that I understood what was going on and felt calmer.”
“If you’re over 50, get your heart checked. I didn’t and I probably should have – especially knowing my father had a series of heart attacks.”
The West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital is the only place that performs open heart surgery in West Tennessee outside of Memphis.
Atrial fibrillation, the most common of heart rhythm irregularity conditions, was making Larry Forbess feel weak.
“When I got up in the mornings I just felt yuck. Then through the day if I went outside and tried to do anything, I couldn’t do much. I felt really faint, kind of drained and unsteady on my feet.
Undetected and untreated, atrial fibrillation increases risk of stroke.
Larry’s primary doctor referred him to West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center. The cardiologist tried the least invasive procedures first, cardioversions, that shock the heart back into rhythm, and beta blockers, medication to keep the heart beating at a good rate. When these procedures didn’t stop the atrial fibrillation the cardiologist recommended Larry see an electrophysiologist (heart rhythm specialist).
Offered several options, Larry chose West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center’s Heart Rhythm Clinic in Jackson. The minimally invasive cryoablation procedure uses freezing temperature gases to remove scarring which blocks electrical signals. The gas is delivered to the heart through a balloon attached to a small catheter. This minimally invasive approach to correcting atrial fibrillation has only been available for a few years and greatly reduces the risk of stroke.
“The electro physiologist actually drew out for me what the procedure would be and how long it would take to recover. He took a long time, just like I was the only patient he had to see that day. He was in no hurry, and every question that I asked him I got an answer right then.”
“I went in for surgery one day and was out the next. I’ve done yard work and about whatever I wanted to do, and that’s what the doctor told me to do. He said if you start feeling bad, stop and go in. But I haven’t had to do that much. After the procedure, everything has been good. ”
Larry was glad to have an electrophysiologist in Jackson.
“Why drive up and down I-40 and go way out of town for whatever follow up I needed, when I could just drive 38 miles and be at my doctor’s offce? The offce personnel were absolutely great; they were very professional and nice. Why in the world would you want to go anywhere else?”
Larry and his wife, Betty, both rode motorcycles as teenagers and picked the hobby back up as empty-nesters. They’ve traveled all of Route 66 on their bikes.
My wife and I started a walking program. I’ve always been a little short of breath but every once in a while I would also get nauseous. Being a retired nurse, my wife encouraged me to go see a doctor. I went to the doctor and everything looked good. Even my stress test came back with good results. But my doctor still recommended I go see a cardiologist with West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center.
The cardiologist said “I could schedule many tests and they could all come back good but I would not be convinced. I believe you have a blockage.”
He did a Heart Catheterization and found blockages. None of the blockages could have stents inserted to open them up, so surgery was the only option.
When I got to surgery, they also found a blood vessel on the right side of my heart that was damaged. So they did a Transmyocardial Laser Revascularization. This is a treatment where a laser is used to create small channels in the heart muscle to improve blood flow to the heart. The channels act as blood lines, when the heart pumps; it sends blood through the channels into the heart muscle. It also may generate new capillaries in the heart muscle to help restore more blood flow.
“Modern Medicine is Wonderful” I was never treated better than I was while on the cardiac floor. It was like I was in a five-star hotel. I went in on a Monday and was discharged on a Thursday.
Since then, Cardiac Rehabilitation was the greatest thing I have done. They design an exercise program specifically for you plus classes on nutrition, medication, how to eat when you go out, also psychology classes, things I don’t think the general public ever even thinks about.
“My doctors were absolutely fabulous.”Conrad Delaney was a Radio and TV personality for 20 years. He retired six years ago, but still does freelance work and MC’s for many nonprofits in the community.
Arthur, known as “Skip” by all his friends, could tell a stroke was coming on; he had experienced one before, 10 years ago. But this time, his condition was much more critical.
His wife Tina immediately called 911, and he was taken to the closest hospital. Twenty minutes faster than the national standard, Skip was transferred from a local hospital to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, which is Joint Commission certified as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center.
“They were ready for him and took him immediately,” Tina remembers. “The interventional radiologist had a room full of the most talented team.”
An EKG, a CT scan and a noninvasive angiogram showed Skip was experiencing an acute basilar artery occlusion – a large blood clot was blocking blood flow to a main artery that supplies blood to the brain. Survival rates for this type of stroke are less than 10 percent. It was one of the largest clots the interventional radiologist on call had ever seen. He told Tina that Skip was experiencing the “worst of the worst” type of stroke.
A stroke causes loss of 1.9 million neurons every minute, so timely treatment is crucial. Skip received clot-busting medicine through an IV to slow down the damage while being prepared for a mechanical thrombectomy, a newly available procedure to remove the clot using a stent-like device. This clot removal procedure is only available at major medical facilities such as West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.
Throughout the surgery, the stroke coordinator brought updates to Tina and their friends in the nearby waiting room.When Skip first woke up after the surgery he could only move his head, but in less than a week he had regained all of the movement in his limbs. Today his memory is intact, he can talk clearly and he walks a mile by himself each day, with the assistance of a walker for added stability.
Less than a year after his severe stroke, Skip has recovered so well he is taking a cruise with the friends who waited with Tina in the hospital waiting room the night of the stroke.
Joyce was having some medical tests performed when a West Tennessee Heart & Vascular Center surgeon discovered Joyce had Peripheral Vascular Disease. He placed a stent in her leg to correct the blockage and restore normal blood flow before any other damage occured.
Some months later, while reviewing Joyce's MRI for an unrelated problem, the surgeon found an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). An AAA can rupture if it grows too large, causing reduced blood flow that often results in death.
Using a minimally invasive AAA stent graft procedure, the surgeon delivered a mesh support system through a catheter to strengthen the weak artery walls and keep the AAA from bursting.
"The surgeon took his time and explained everything to me and my daughter. He was really kind and broke down the big words," Joyce says. "He cared and you could see it."
With the placement of the stent graft, Joyce's risk of death from decreased blood flow or stroke was greatly reduced.
At age 69, and with a family history of high blood pressure, Joyce plans to visit her doctor regularly to monitor for other aneurysms and blood clots, but is glad her life doesn't have to slow down.
"I'm the type of person who likes to get out and do things. I love to fish, I sew and my daughter and I are getting ready to buy some cattle."
AAA stent grafts are one of the endovascular intervention procedures provided by West Tennessee Heart and Vascular Center. These minimally invasive procedures allow for a shorter hospital stay and recovery time than traditional surgery.
- Rodney Alford
Rodney had no idea that he had a life-threatening health problem. He exercises regularly, walking the campus and track where he works at Dyersburg State Community College.
He started noticing a persistent soreness in his leg and felt more tired than usual after exercising. After a few weeks, he suspected that what he was experiencing was not n
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