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Healthy Heart

The good life after a heart attack

bob fecho heartAt first glance, Bob Fecho does not look like your “typical cardiac patient.” He is 59 years old and looks ten years younger. He follows a healthy diet, at times eating strictly vegan, and he exercises on a regular basis.

“I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle because I know I have to. Both of my parents suffered heart attacks in their sixties, so the family history is there,” shares the matter-of-fact professor of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia.

Sitting at his computer on an uncommon afternoon at home, Bob began experiencing chest pain. The pain was hot and began in the center of his chest. It radiated to his back, intensely down his arm, and into his jaw. Bob knew enough about cardiac symptoms to know he was having a heart attack. Seven minutes later he was in St. Mary’s Emergency Department.

St. Mary’s staff and physicians were proactive in Bob’s care. “I was set up with a cardiologist from Oconee Heart and Vascular Center. My condition was monitored and everyone I saw spent time listening carefully to me and providing me with detailed feedback. I felt very much in control.”

“We are committed to open communication between our Emergency Room and Cardiac Services to treat patients arriving with chest pains as quickly and efficiently as possible,” shares Lesley Hastings, manager of St. Mary’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. “We arrange for diagnostic technology, like our 64-slice CT scanner to be located in close proximity to the Emergency room, and we have Cath Lab staff on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Opening an artery

Bob was transferred from the emergency room to St. Mary’s state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory where the blocked artery that caused his heart attack was reopened with a minimally-invasive balloon angioplasty and stent implantation.

“With a balloon angioplasty, we can get the same results as some open heart surgeries with significantly less risk and recovery time for our patients,” Hastings says.

During this procedure, a small catheter is inserted through an artery in the groin or arm. A balloon is inserted through the catheter and inflated inside the blood vessel to reopen the vessel. A stent is then inserted to prevent the newly opened vessel from collapsing.

“An intricate and advanced procedure can be done very non-invasively right here in Athens,” Bob shares, “I walked out of the hospital, blockage free, just four days after suffering a heart attack.”

Rehabilitation for the Heart

Bob was so impressed with the care he received at St. Mary’s hospital, from the technicians to the physicians, that he opted to continue his recovery with St. Mary’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program.

He started while he was still at St. Mary’s Hospital with Phase I where he brushed up on health lifestyle and diet tips. During Cardiac Rehab Phase II, Bob improved his heart function through monitored exercise, also at St. Mary’s Hospital.

“The monitored exercise really made a difference for me,” Bob shared. “I was accustomed to physical activity, but a little hesitant to jump back into working out after a heart attack. It really put me at ease to have my blood pressure and heart rate monitored during my workout.”

Bob saw the positive results of Cardiac Rehab early on. “I worked with my physician at Oconee Heart and Vascular and my Cardiac Rehab therapist to improve and maintain my healthy lifestyle,” he shared, “I made enough progress to decrease my medications significantly just six months after the heart attack, which was important to me.”

Bob transitioned into Cardiac Rehab Phase III which encourages lifelong maintenance of cardiac health through education and regular exercise at St. Mary’s Wellness Center. “When I have an ‘appointment’ at the gym, I notice I am more likely to stay on target.”

Today, Bob is walking his dog twice a day, maintaining a weekly yoga routine and visiting St. Mary’s Wellness Center three times a week to maintain his healthy heart. Thanks to St. Mary’s complete continuum of cardiac care – from the Emergency Room through rehabilitation – Bob is back, with a heart that is healthier than ever and a plan to keep it that way.

St. Mary’s Cardiac Services provides the finest in emergency diagnostics to detect and treat heart attacks quickly, saving precious time and heart muscle. Electrophysiology studies, angioplasties and stenting procedures are performed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on-site at St. Mary’s state-of-the-art Catheterization and Electrophysiology Laboratory. Local EMS, Emergency Department staff and Cath Lab technicians share a commitment to quality and hold a “door-to-device” time well below the national average.

St. Mary’s Heart Failure program was one of the first 25 in the country certified by the Joint Commission and has celebrated back-to-back recertification since 2007. Cardiac patients are educated and encouraged in making healthy lifestyle choices and committing to a healthy future with St. Mary’s three phases of Cardiac Rehabilitation from the hospital to St. Mary’s Wellness Center, the areas only Medical Fitness Center.