Blessing Health System issued the following announcement on June 7.
John Craig has been hospitalized twice in his life; once when he was born and once when he almost died.
A lot took place in the 64 years between.
“When it comes to medical issues, what a person doesn’t know can hurt them,” said Eliot Nissenbaum, DO, FACC, FCCP, Blessing Physician Services Board-Certified Cardiologist and John’s doctor for the past year-and-a-half.
As occurs in so many other people, unmonitored heart disease risk factors had caused cholesterol plaque to be deposited into John’s arteries over the years. His risk factors included 40 years as a smoker.
“He didn’t feel it until one day a plaque ruptured,” continued Dr. Nissenbaum. “That’s why it is so important to know and manage your risk factors for heart disease - including hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, smoking, diet, weight and stress.”
The day heart disease caught up with John was August 29, 2017, around 10:30 pm.
“I went to bed and noticed I was kind of short of breath,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘What’s this about?’ Then, my left arm had numbness and dull pain. Then, I broke out in a cold sweat. Then I thought, ‘Okay, this isn’t right.’ I told Donna (John’s wife) to get up and get dressed we were going to the emergency room.”
“I applaud him for not just writing it off,” Donna said. “I am thankful he did not just roll back over and go to sleep.”
Residents of Memphis, Missouri, John and Donna arrived in the parking lot of Scotland County Hospital in a matter of minutes.
“I stepped out of the truck and collapsed like a ton of bricks,” John stated.
Dr. Nissenbaum says John experienced a heart attack known as the “widow maker,” caused by a blockage in the heart’s main artery.
“Because of the size of his heart attack, only an estimated two or three people out of 10 survive,” said the doctor.
After getting what he and Donna described as “excellent care” in the Scotland County emergency room, the Craigs had a choice. The Air Evac helicopter was on the way to take John to one of two locations in the region that could provide the care he needed.
“I told them to take me to Blessing,” John stated. “I had heard good things about Blessing and knew this is where I needed to be. It was the smartest thing I ever said.”
Over the past year-and-a-half John put his life in the hands of a team that included Dr. Nissenbaum and two other members of the Blessing Heart & Vascular Center staff; John Arnold, MD, open heart surgeon and John Hammock, MD, electrocardiologist.
At Blessing, Dr. Arnold performed triple bypass surgery. Before joining Blessing, Dr. Arnold was a Cleveland Clinic heart surgeon.
“His case was more complicated than most,” observed Dr. Arnold. “It was complicated by significant, ongoing disease.”
Through Dr. Arnold’s skill and the care of the Blessing Cardiovascular Unit, John survived the widow maker.
“Dr. Arnold didn’t quit. He kept his eye on everything,” John stated. “And the nursing staff – things could have gone either way at any time and everyone was on the ball. I cannot tell you how much I think of them all.”
“The Blessing Cardiovascular Unit is phenomenal,” Donna added. “We are lucky to have it.”
John was not out of the woods. The damage his heart sustained from the heart attack left it extremely weak. John’s ejection fraction, the measurement of the heart’s strength each time it contracts – was as low as 20 percent. A normal ejection fraction is 55-65 percent.
John and Donna returned home under the care of Dr. Nissenbaum, who monitored and adjusted his medications. The next two steps in his care were to have a defibrillator implanted by Dr. Hammock to shock his weakened heart and save his life if he were to experience a serious arrhythmia (heart rhythm problem), and for a new member to join his care team - Krissy Siegfried, RN, supervisor of Scotland County Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit.
Krissy guided John through exercises and counseled him on ways to modify his risk factors. With the help of this his heart care team, John has strengthened his heart to 35 percent over the past year.
“He has been a pleasure to watch,” said Krissy. “When he first came to Cardiac Rehab, I remember him looking at other patients and saying to me he hoped to be close someday to be able to do what the others in the program were doing. Through his perseverance, determination and support of his wife, he has been successful.”
John continues to do cardiac rehabilitation weekly and credits the Blessing and Scotland County Hospital heart care team for giving him the chance to recover.
“They’ve given me my life back and the opportunity to live it pretty normally,” he said.
Scotland County Hospital and Blessing have partnered on heart health care since 2009. Dr. Nissenbaum, a Blessing Physician Services employee, has a clinic at Scotland County Hospital. Krissy says having quick access to the doctor is invaluable to her.
“With John’s care, I was constantly going to see Dr. Nissenbaum,” she said. “I believe that immediate access played a role in John’s recovery.”
John and Donna are grateful for the doctor’s commitment to providing convenient access to cardiac care for patients in rural areas, and for the working relationship between the Blessing Health System and Scotland County Hospital.
“He really cares,” John said of Dr. Nissenbaum. “If I have a problem, he considers it his problem and does not quit until he has an answer for it.”
“Even though there are many miles between Scotland County Hospital and Blessing, there is a cohesiveness between the two,” said Donna. “It has been pretty seamless.”
“It’s a big deal for us who live around here,” John exclaimed.
Original source can be found here.
Source: Blessing Health System