By Carl “Butch” Antolini
Dorothy Wright-Reynolds will remember Nov. 13, 2009, for the rest of her life.
It was the day that due to the quick response of many people and the availability of cardiac stent service at Raleigh General Hospital, she survived.
While teaching a 10th-grade English class at Woodrow Wilson High School, she started feeling pain and shortness of breath. Some of her students noticed the problem and another teacher was alerted and called 911.
An ambulance quickly responded and rushed her to RGH, which had opened its advanced cardiac care unit just a few weeks before.
Wright-Reynolds recalled a few weeks later, while standing at a podium at RGH to talk about the life-saving capabilities of the angioplasty unit and the doctors and staff, “that (she) was cleared out and stented 39 minutes from the time they rolled in” to the hospital. She was told afterward that her heart was “99.94 percent closed” off and was “very close to death.”
She wouldn’t have survived a trip to Charleston for the same procedure.
On Saturday morning, some 31/2 years later, The Register-Herald spoke on the telephone with Wright-Reynolds from her home in Beckley.
“Time was an issue for me that day; the fact that they could treat me immediately was so important,” she said.
When asked about the current suspension of cardiac stent service at RGH, Wright-Reynolds seemed to catch her breath slightly before responding.
“I just get nervous right now thinking about that.”
Knowing full well what a difference it made for her, she expressed hope that the issue, described by RGH officials as an “unexpected unavailability of physician coverage,” is resolved soon.
“I just hope that whatever the situation is that they get it rectified quickly,” Wright-Reynolds said.
Area physicians like, rely on service
The availability of advanced cardiac care is just as, if not more important for those in the outlying areas since it takes longer for them to be transported.
Dr. Sam Muscari Jr., a physician in Wyoming County, said having the angioplasty available in Beckley for his patients who need this specialized treatment, especially those requiring “acute or critical care,” is vital.
“It’s that golden hour they talk about in medical school,” Muscari said. “The closer to Wyoming County, the better it is. Raleigh General comes the closest for this, and typically it is at least an hour.
“There is no direction out of Wyoming County that is easy when we need to get patients on an ambulance for advanced care, and we have to make those decisions and deal with it every day.”
He added that in the clinics he works at in Wyoming County, along with a number of other physicians, “quite a few patients” are sent to RGH for cardiac, as well as other services.
Muscari said he wasn’t aware that the availability of cardiac stent services had been suspended at RGH until he read it in Friday’s edition of The Register-Herald.
Dr. Charles “Buddy” Porterfield, a Beckley physician, said Saturday that “everybody was surprised” by the news of the temporary shutdown and that “it came out of the blue.”
A practicing doctor in the area for several years, Porterfield said the angioplasty service is “critical” to the region and in his opinion what has been done since the cardiac clinic opened at Raleigh General in 2009 “has been absolutely great, amazing.”
He added that the convenience it has provided for both patients and their families is also a real plus since they don’t have to worry about travel, lodging and waiting for treatment in other locations outside the area.
“If they present with chest pain, they can have a stress test here, and if it confirms a problem, then they can be treated (at RGH) and in many cases be able to go home the next day.”
Officials at RGH indicated Thursday they expect to resume cardiac stent service Monday. Other hospitals in the region have instituted other protocol for patients needing this procedure, including having them transported to Charleston or other hospitals located farther away.