There’s no blueprint for a hero. They come from all walks of life and do extraordinary things.
Robert Massie can attest to that. Back in November, the 46-year-old was driving a truck to deliver supplies for his company when he began to experience severe chest discomfort. After calling his wife, he decided to drive himself to emergency room but before he could make it, he passed out while driving.
Fortunately, his truck came to rest after it struck a police car. Law enforcement performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to try and stabilize Massie until an ambulance arrived.
While in transit to Weatherford Regional Medical Center (WRMC), it wasn’t going well for Massie as he went into cardiac arrest and was “shocked” several times to revive his heart.
Upon his arrival, he was immediately taken to a catheterization laboratory and was found to have almost 100 percent blockage of his left anterior descending artery, known as the "widow maker" artery.
Doctor Dennis Doan, and the highly trained cardiac team at WRMC, went immediately to work by placing a stent to open the blocked artery to restore blood flow.
“Because his heart’s pumping function was only 10-15 percent, compared to 50-60 percent of a normal heart, an Impella device (the world's smallest heart pump) was inserted,” Doan said. “Its purpose is to maintain blood flow through the body and to provide time for the heart to rest and recover.”
From the time Massie went into the emergency room, it took only 59 minutes to restore blood flow and save his life - a term doctors refer to as “door-to-balloon.” The national goal is 90 minutes.
“We improve patient mortality; it’s clear cut and a hard number,” Doan said. “We’re at a point where as soon as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) sees the Electrocardiogram they can call and activate the Cath Lab.”
In doing so, EMS alerts the cardiology team on call at WRMC and enables them to arrive at the hospital in under 30 minutes - ready.
“It reduces time and makes a huge difference how quickly we get to a patient,” Doan said. “It’s not an easy job but it sure gives me great satisfaction.”
Natalie Parish, marketing director for WRMC, said it’s an added bonus having Lifecare EMS expanding in rural portions of Parker County and that it increase the patients chance for survival if they are having a cardiac event.
“With the addition of the Lifecare station in Brock, and the station being built in the Peaster area, that’s big,” Parish said. “It’s wonderful having those kind of resources in rural Parker County that allow us to better service those in stress.”
Michelle Reeves, director of the heart and vascular center at WRMC, said last year the hospital saw 52 emergent cases where stents were placed.
“Unfortunately, we’re still getting some people bypassing the hospital either because they don’t know we can do this procedure, or some other reason,” Reeves said. “Many don’t make it where they are going.”
The overall door-to-balloon average at WRMC has been 58 minutes, far better than most hospitals east of Weatherford.
American Heart Month
With February declared as American Heart Month, it serves as a reminder that cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States.
Atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, is the number one cause of heart disease. Doan said statin therapy, with medications such as Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor, are powerful plaque-stopping medicines that help slow or even stop the progression of plaque build-up in arteries.
One of the causes of narrowing of the arteries comes from what we eat.
“The Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows the greatest area for obesity is here in the south,” Doan said. “Texas is high on the list, so our diet is a major contributing factor.”
Doan said with a smile on his face that he’s a “glorified plumber” that cleans out patients’ pipes when clogged.
“We need to do more exercise, too,” he said. “Certainly if you have heart disease you’re going to need cardiac rehab.”
He said if a patient has a broken arm or leg what usually happens is a cast is applied and after it comes off, rehab is the next course of action.
“Your heart doesn’t have that kind of luxury of not working,” Doan said. “You’ve got to keep on working no matter what, even if you’ve had a heart attack, it still needs rehab.”
He said patients at WRMC learn what physical activity they need and a dietician works with them to change how they’ve been eating.
“After I’ve place a stent and you don’t change how you’ve been living then guess what? You’ll be back in a year or two,” Doan said.
According to the CDC, one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. Million Hearts is a national initiative, which was launched in September 2011, aiming to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. by 2017.
“We can fight back against heart disease and stroke,” Doan said. “Although we cannot change certain things such as family history, we can certainly change our risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. You can protect yourself and your loved ones from heart disease and stroke by understanding the risks and taking these steps.”
Know your ABCDE-S:
▪ Aspirin: Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for taking an aspirin daily.
▪ Blood pressure or Cholesterol: See doctor for annual physical exam, especially if you are African-American or Hispanic.
▪ Diet: Eat a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and low in sodium and trans-fat.
▪ Exercise: Get active by being physically active for at least 30 minutes daily for five days a week.
▪ Smoking: If you smoke, quit. Your doctor can prescribe Chantix, Wellbutrin or nicotine patch if you need help.
As for Massie, he was hospitalized for 14 days, including 10 days on a mechanical ventilator. His heart function improved to 45 percent from the initial 10-15 percent. Even though he had to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital, his Christmas was at home with his wife, Danielle, and 9-year-old daughter Kayla.