Jan. 26, 2006: It should have been an ordinary, albeit busy day for Slidell-resident Cheryl Dampier. Dampier, a successful realtor, had a closing scheduled for 10 a.m.. She awoke about 6:30 a.m., mentally running through what she had to accomplish that morning. But, something did not feel quite right.
“I felt a tightness in the lower part of my neck that was very uncomfortable,” Dampier says. “I kept trying to figure out what it could be. I even wondered, was something wrong with my esophagus?” She took a shower and headed to the 8 a.m. walk through scheduled at the property involved in the transaction.
“During the walk through the pain got a little bit worse, but driving back to my office I still didn’t feel anything that caused me great alarm. I told somebody at my office I wasn’t feeling well, and they told me that it might be a good idea if I saw my doctor.”
Chances are, Dampier now says, that she would not have seen her doctor that day. But that decision was effectively taken out of her hands. Her husband, Robert Dampier, is a nurse. He had asked her a number of questions earlier that morning and concluded that she should go to the emergency room. “His main concern,” Dampier says, “is that I had used the word ‘tight’ to describe my feeling. He just wanted to rule out the possibility of a cardiac problem. He called my primary care physician, and his nurse called me to come in.”
Robert Dampier took his wife to Ochsner Medical Center, where Cheryl’s doctor works. It is a rather long drive from Slidell, during which time Robert gave his wife an aspirin and she began to feel better. “They took me in quickly and did some blood work, an EKG [electrocardiogram – a test that measures the electrical signals that control the rhythm of one’s heartbeat], and found only that my blood pressure was slightly elevated,” Dampier says. “Everything looked pretty good, but the tightness had started up again and they gave me nitro [nitroglycerin], which made me feel better.”
Much to her surprise, the doctor wanted to do an angiogram. An angiogram is an imaging test that uses x-rays to view your body’s blood vessels. Physicians often use this test to study narrow, blocked, enlarged or malformed arteries in many parts of the body, including the brain, heart, abdomen and legs. The physician inserts an IV to provide the patient with fluids and medications.
The physician will choose where to insert the catheter, usually into an artery in the groin or near the elbow.
For her part, Dampier at first objected to the use of an invasive procedure. “I had only a slightly irregular EKG,” she says, “but my husband pointed out to me that three doctors were saying I needed the EKG, and so was my husband, a nurse. They also told me that if there was a problem, there was a possibility they would be able to do a corrective procedure during the angiogram. Of course, anything major that would require open heart surgery would be another story.”
In some cases, the physician is able to dissolve a clot discovered during the test. A physician may also perform an angioplasty, the mechanical widening of a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel. In some cases, the physician will perform a stenting procedure to clear blocked arteries during an angiogram, depending on the location and extent of the blockage. An angiogram can also help the physician plan operations to repair the arteries for more extensive problems.
When Dampier awoke, her doctor had indeed performed the stenting procedure, placing two stents in two arteries, one that showed a 90 percent blockage and one with a 70 percent blockage.
“They kept me overnight and three days later I was back working,” says Dampier, who was 64 years old at the time, a non-smoker with no family history of coronary disease. “What I understand now that I didn’t really know then is that the pain associated with heart problems can be in your neck or even your jaw,” she says. “It was kind of like if I took a deep breath it would tighten up more. Really, when I woke up and they told me what they had done, I would never have even thought from my history or my symptoms that what they did would have been necessary, but it was.”
Now, Dampier says she believes if you have discomfort in your chest, back, neck, arms or jaw, and you do not know of some reason for it, you should seek medical attention. “If the doctors want to do an angiogram, don’t argue with them.”
Over the past several years, women have become the focus of researchers and other medical professionals who treat heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one in 2.6 women who die, die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD), compared with one in 30 who die of breast cancer. Nearly 39 percent of all female deaths in America occur from CVD. The death rate from CVD is substantially higher in black women than in white women. Further, 38 percent of women, compared with 25 percent of men, will die within one year after a heart attack.
Women, according to a 2003 AHA study, lack some understanding of the dangers of heart disease and stroke. The AHA study revealed that only 13 percent of women in the U.S. believe that heart disease and stroke are the greatest threat to women.
All of these numbers and statistics, coupled with her own experience, leads Cheryl Dampier to counsel other women: “Don’t wait to see if the pain goes away. Do something. See the doctor, and get medical treatment.”
Since her own experience, Dampier has changed her own lifestyle, but moderately.
“I think it’s a matter of common sense eating,” she says. “I am on a cholesterol and blood thinner, which is critical to take because when you have stents you have to make sure your blood stays thin enough. Diet and exercise are important. But more than anything, pay attention to how you feel, and don’t just wait to see if the pain goes away. Take action.”
For more information about women and heart disease, visit the American Heart Association Web site, www.americanheart.org.
Cardiac Care in Louisiana
New Orleans has long been considered a hub for health care in the Southeastern U.S. Much of the area’s stellar reputation has to do with the exemplary level of heart healthcare available at local hospitals, and products and services available through local businesses.
Louisiana Heart Hospital
A facility that began as an acute care facility with special emphasis on diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, as well as disease and injury affecting the spine, has become much more than that. Today, Louisiana Heart Hospital is rated the No. 1 five-star hospital in Louisiana for cardiac results.
“What we are doing at this hospital in regard to heart surgery, bypass and valves, has put us in the top five percent in the country in results,” says Bill Fox, CEO. “It happens because of the physicians here. They study what they do. They watch for the latest, greatest work, whether it is drug stents or bypass surgeries. We are on the cutting edge of those therapies, and those procedures, and applying science to what we do every day.”
The three-year-old facility, located on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, has all private rooms, and prides itself on patient-focused care. Patients are admitted into one room, leave only to have their procedures, and are brought right back to that room. There are no ICU or step down units.
“Private rooms are more comfortable,” says Fox. “We encourage families to come and stay with the patients, and we work with the family so they will know what to expect and what they will have to do when the course of treatment at the hospital is over.”
For more information, call 985-690-7500, or visit www.louisianahearthospital.com.
West Jefferson Medical Center
Mary Martin, director of Performance Improvement at West Jefferson Medical Center (WJMC), understands what makes West Jefferson Medical Center cardiovascular services special. Martin had emergency open-heart surgery in 2004. Afterwards, she became an active participant in the Cardiac Rehab Program at WJMC. Today, Martin leads an active lifestyle and gets her exercise under the guidance of an exercise physiologist and cardiovascular rehabilitation nurses. Today, Martin oversees the Cardiac Rehab program and is versed on the many offerings of WJMC, the hub of medical activity on the West Bank and in the region.
According to the Chairman of the Cardiology Section of the Medical Staff at West Jeff, Dr. Louis Glade, WJMC is respected in the medical community for its offerings and attention to heart care, including women’s diagnostics and related services as well as the educational classes to promote cardiovascular health. Following Hurricane Katrina, WJMC became a major teaching hospital and now has several residency programs in affiliation with the Medical Center, including the specialties of Vascular Surgery and Neuroscience. WJMC has recently signed on with the American Heart Association as a sponsor of the Start! New Orleans 2007 heart initiative. The yearlong activity will invite participation in walking and efforts to reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke.
“Heart disease prevention and stroke awareness are important to us,” A. Gary Muller, President and CEO at WJMC says. “Living in Louisiana, we have to be aware of the incidence and impact of cardiovascular disease. The Start! Program provides the American Heart Association and its partner sponsors such as WJMC with a platform to demonstrate that commitment to fight the major causes of cardiovascular disease and stroke through comprehensive walking and nutrition activities.”
For more information, call 347-5511, or visit, www.wjmc.org.
Thibodaux Regional Medical Center
The Heart and Vascular Center at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center is equipped with three state-of-the-art procedure rooms that offer patients the most advanced form of cardiovascular imaging in the area. The center also offers cutting edge vascular technology that provides detailed diagnostic information that leads to effective treatments of heart and vascular diseases. Physicians have technology at their fingertips that allows them to precisely place balloons, stents and other therapeutic agents.
The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center is accredited by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
Thibodaux Regional Medical Center also has home health nurses who can provide a number of physician-prescribed services in the home, following hospitalization for cardiac care.
Screenings and education programs are available year-round. Thibodaux Regional’s staff of registered dieticians is available to provide individualized patient counseling regarding healthy diets low in fat and cholesterol.
For more information about Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s heart services, call 985-493-4797, or visit www.thibodaux.com.
Tulane Cardiovascular Center of Excellence
For more than 40 years, the Tulane Cardiovascular Center of Excellence has been the site of the world-renowned Bogalusa study, a longitudinal study of cardiac risk factors in patients. Today, the Center is led by Patrice Delafontaine, MD, the Sidney W. and Marilyn S. Lassen Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Chief Section of Cardiology and Director of the program. The program includes multiple components, including everything from preventive cardiology to advanced interventional cardiology. The Center also deals with heart failure and heart transplants.
“We have a women’s health center, funded through the National Institutes of Health,” Delafontaine says. “There are only a limited number of such centers in the country. Here we deal with preventive cardiology for women, screening and trying to identify patients at risk for heart disease.”
The Tulane Cardiovascular Center of Excellence has an advanced heat transplant program, one of only two in the state of Louisiana.
“We also use, for advanced heart failure, enhanced external pulsation,” Delafontaine says. “This is a way of mechanical stimulus resorting from inflation of pressure cuffs on the leg that improves cardiac perfusion, and improves the quality of life for patients.”
The Center has cutting edge diagnostic technology, including a 64-slice CT angiography.
After Hurricane Katrina, the Center was awarded two large NIH grants to conduct research for the next five years. The grants are worth about three-quarters of a million dollars annually, Delafontaine says.
For more information, visit www.cardiology.tulane.edu.
East Jefferson General Hospital
Cardiac Event – that is medical speak for a litany of procedures and/or episodes including heart attacks, bypass, angioplasty, cardiac catheterization and more. Effective cardiac rehab programs are helping people survive their current “event” and preventing future ones.
The 25-year-old East Jefferson General Hospital Cardiac Rehab Program has touched the lives of more than 4,000 patients. While the program is constantly evolving, it is still built around the simple three-step process upon which it was born.
The first step is to get patients on their feet as quickly as possible. According to Cardiologist Gary Menszer, lingering in bed significantly increases the risk of post-surgical complications and pneumonia. Cardiac patients are understandably leery of pushing themselves too hard immediately after their procedure, but studies reflect the positive impact of getting patients on their feet as quickly as possible.
The second step is to implement an education/exercise program that will help patients recover from their procedure and build up heart strength to prevent future episodes. Randy Lee of the EJGH Wellness Center says the education element is crucial to the program’s success. “Through walking and water programs, we give our patients a safe way to get more fit but the lifestyle changes we help them implement are often the things that get them most excited about their recovery”.
The third step to the program is ongoing heart maintenance. These programs, carried out through the EJGH Wellness Center, are developed and overseen by nurses and exercise physiologists. Participants gain many benefits beyond a healthier heart and stress relief. The exercise helps offset osteoporosis, hypertension, arthritis and other ailments. However, many of the participants say the greatest benefit is the camaraderie shared by those who have been through a significant ordeal but now use that ordeal to help change, and improve their lives.
For more information, call 504-454-5655, or visit www.eastjeffhospital.com.
For more than 150 years, Touro Infirmary has dedicated itself to making sure that New Orleans enjoys the best possible state of health. As a part of its mission to continue to offer the latest technology in cardiac and vascular services, Touro Infirmary recently purchased equipment to treat atrial fibrillation, one of the most common heart rhythm disorders found in Americans.
The Ensire/NavX System, by St. Jude Medical, is the most advanced computer-based technology systems for three-dimensional mapping of any arrhythmia and navigating any electrophysiological catheter in real time.
“This system allows electrophysiologists to perform more complex procedures in a shorter time and with greater accuracy thus improving favorable outcomes and patient safety,” said Murat M. Celebi, M.D., Touro physician and cardiac electrophysiologist who is a member of the Uptown Cardiology Group.
Use of the system is not limited to the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Ensite and NavX have applications throughout the field of electrophysiology.
Atrial fibrillation affects more than 2.2 million Americans each year. About 15 percent of strokes occur in people with the disorder.
Touro provides a full spectrum of cardiac care, from prevention and diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation. At today’s Touro, your heart’s in the right place. For more information, call 504-897-8340, or visit www.touro.com.
Patio Drugs, the oldest operating pharmacy in Jefferson Parish, is a community-based, full service pharmacy. The company is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) in home medical equipment management, homecare pharmacy services, clinical respiratory services and home infusion therapy.
Pharmacists at Patio Drugs specialize in compounding, a process that allows them to create new formulations that work well for individual patients. In some cases medications can be changed from pills to gels to liquids, depending on the needs of the patient.
Patio Drugs specializes in medical equipment. Home medical equipment may include items such as crutches, canes and walkers to hospital beds, oxygen and CPAPs. Home medical equipment is delivered and set up in the patient’s home by trained service technicians.
Patio Drugs provides free prescription delivery throughout East Jefferson Parish and free delivery for home medical equipment, homecare pharmacy, long term care, and hospice pharmacy throughout Southern Louisiana, Monday through Friday.
Owner John DiMaggio says, “We don’t just take care of patients; we become involved with them. We’re not just a vendor of medicine. We go the extra mile. Our philosophy is a high level of customer service.”
Patio Drugs is located at 5208 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie. For more information, call 504-889-7070.
Total Health Solutions
“Women have specific health care needs and concerns that require the support of caring, female healthcare professionals. Whether you are dealing with a mastectomy, chemotherapy, vascular conditions such as swelling of the feet or hands, incontinence issues or are pregnant, there are healthcare products designed especially for women that can help,” says Sheila Bonds, R.N., co-owner of Total Health Solutions.
The Metairie store has a huge showroom and a separate Caring for Women Boutique offering such products as post-surgical garments, breast prosthesis, bras and swimsuits, wigs, turbans, hats and scarves, compression stockings, lymphedema sleeves and pumps, sleepwear for night sweats, washable and disposable incontinence briefs and pads, and skin care products to overcome the harmful effects of chemo and radiation therapy. Maternity patients will find back, abdominal and pelvic supports; compression hosiery; nursing bras and a complete line of Medela ® breastpumps and accessories for sale and rental.
“Helping women learn about the healthcare products that will best meet their need is what we specialize in,” Bonds says, “and many of these solutions may be covered by health insurance. We also offer a complete line of canes, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, lift-chairs, bath safety, ostomy, wound care and hot/cold therapy products
Total Health Solutions is located at 3211 N. Causeway, Metairie. For more information, call 504-834-8114.