— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Weatherford Regional Medical Center’s first cardiac stent patients got a chance to meet with their doctor Friday and get a tour of the facility where the procedure was performed for the first time in Parker County.
After a year of performing diagnostic cardiac procedures in the new WRMC Heart and Vascular Center catheterization lab and often sending patients to Fort Worth for treatment, doctors began inserting stents to open narrowing or blocked coronary arteries on Feb. 18.
In the weeks since, they’ve placed about 15 to 20 stents in patients, hospital staff estimated.
It was a milestone for the hospital that was more than two years in the making, cardiologist Dennis Doan said.
Gilberto Hernandez was the hospital’s first stent patient.
Hernandez and his wife, Hilda, recently moved to Weatherford, according to Debbie Soriano, one of the couple’s five children. Not having to drive to Fort Worth for the procedure made it easier on Hernandez, who also has dialysis three times a week, his daughter said.
Soriano, who also recently had surgery at the hospital, said the hospital has changed for the better in recent years and she was pleased with the care provided by Doan, who has seen both her parents.
Linda Samford, who said she had no previous symptoms, woke up with chest pains on Feb. 17, a Sunday morning.
The Weatherford woman said she and her husband came to WRMC, where they treated her with nitroglycerin. However, her chest pains quickly returned and by Monday night, Doan was placing a stent in the artery through a catheter in her wrist.
The doctor told her that her “widow maker” artery, a primary artery to the heart, was 75 percent blocked prior to the procedure, Samford said.
Samford said she was discharged the following morning and was back at work on Feb. 20 feeling better.
“The whole team was so caring,” Samford said.
During the stent procedure, a catheter is inserted through the wrist or groin to allow doctors to assess the issue and place the stent or angioplasty balloon.
The process typically takes about 45 minutes from entering the hospital and many patients are allowed to go home within four hours after the procedure, cath lab director Michelle Reeves said.
Most of the time it’s not easy to wake up at 3, 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning to make the drive to the Fort Worth area and can be particularly difficult for some patients, such as those with diabetes, Doan said.
The staff and cardiologists offer a variety of services in the heart and vascular center, including the catheterization procedures, pacemaker implantation and treatment of peripheral artery disease causing artery blockages in other areas away from the heart and affecting blood flow to the legs, stomach and other portions of the body.
During the past year, the hospital has had a total of about 670 patients, including 450 caronary patients, 145 periphary artery disease patients and 50 pacemaker patients, Reeves reported. They were originally projected to serve about 120 patients the first year, Reeves said, adding that the numbers demonstrate the need for local heart and vascular services.
So far the procedures have been successful and the complication rate within the national standard, Doan said.
The hospital hopes to slowly grow the program and provide a wider spectrum of services.
While cardiologists can currently treat cardiac issues discovered during a stress test or minor chest pains, they are also working toward the next step of providing help for those who might call 911 with an acute heart attack, according to Doan.