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Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 06:00 AM

Heart attack led to education on cardiac care available in county

It was their dog Lulu that clued in Mary Denham that something was not right with her husband one fateful morning.

Their routine was iron clad. John Denham got up and took Lulu for a half-hour walk every morning, in all weathers.  Then they crawled into his recliner for a well-deserved rest.

Last November, after their regular stroll around the couple’s property near Sardis, John pushed Lulu away from his chair. Surprised, Mary asked him why and John told her he didn’t feel well, blaming indigestion.

She was concerned as she sat down and watched him rub his chest. She was alarmed when she saw him rubbing his left arm, though she managed to stay calm.

“I didn’t want him to see what was running through my head,” she remembers.

Mary got John in the car and headed to the hospital. Normally, she would have headed toward Gadsden but a voice told her to turn toward Boaz. She believes the Lord was leading the way.

An EKG was started within minutes of reporting chest pains at the Marshall South ER. It took the nurse 15 seconds to tell John he was having a heart attack. The place went crazy with nurses and doctors rushing into the room and shouting orders.

“It was absolutely amazing,” Mary remembers.

Dr. George Philip hadn’t had the best morning himself. One delay after another had caused him to get to his rounds about two hours late. As a result, he walked through the ER just as the commotion was going on. Of course, as a cardiologist, he was in the exact right place at just the right time.

“God was in control of everything,” Mary says. “He blew up Dr. Philip’s morning so he could be here to work miracles for Him through John.”

Dr. Philip advised Mary that her husband needed an emergency heart catheterization to locate the blocked artery and then probably would need stents to keep the artery open. That would be best option to treat John's condition and Dr. Philip assured her he could do it there at Marshall South. Mary gave her permission.

The Denham’s three sons arrived to hear what Dr. Philip found when he got John into the hospital’s state-of-the-art cath lab. His right artery was 100 percent blocked and the artery that runs to the backside of the heart was 90 percent blocked. A third artery was partially blocked. Dr. Philip inserted two stents in the right artery to open up the closed portion. One stent went into the other artery, restoring blood flow. The danger had passed.

Mary said she just sat back in awe.

“I’ve been in many hospitals and I’ve never seen better treatment,” she said of the “B&A,” as she still calls the facility that opened 60 years ago as the ‘Boaz-Albertville Hospital.”

Dr. Philip told her John wouldn’t have made it another 10 minutes.

What the Denhams didn’t know until that day is that Marshall South has its own team of cardiologists with the ability to perform the same lifesaving measures being done at hospitals across the country.

“Marshall South has some of the most modern cardiac catheterization technology available anywhere,” said John Anderson, administrator at South. “We've combined the latest technology with a highly trained, caring team of professionals, all dedicated to providing advanced cardiac cath procedures right here in our community. This service is literally saving lives.”

A catheterization laboratory or cath lab is an examination room in the hospital outfitted with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualize the blood flow to the heart. If there is a blockage or a clot, a cardiologist can immediately put in a stent to open the coronary artery. If necessary, a pacemaker can be put in or even an internal cardiac defibrillator.

“Doing these procedures emergently and successfully  is the result  of a fantastic, well-oiled  team of  medical  personnel  at MMCS,  including  staff  and doctors in the ER, exceptionally experienced  staff  in the catheterization lab at MMCS and the staff in ICU,” Dr. Philip said. “Above all, it is the grace of God to be in the right place at the right time.”

Dr. Philip is an interventional cardiologist employed by the Heart Center, Inc. of Huntsville. He shares an office in Marshall South with a second Heart Center cardiologist. Dr. Philip is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease, and also is board certified by the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and in Adult Comprehensive Echocardiography by the National Board of Echocardiography. He is a member of American College of Cardiology and American Society of Echocardiography and he specializes in Clinical Cardiology, Nuclear Cardiology, Echocardiography and Interventional Cardiology.

“I didn’t know there was a heart specialist here,” Mary said. “I didn’t know we had the equipment here to do what needed to be done. Every day I thank God for the doctors, nurses and equipment here that saved my husband’s life.”

Indeed, John, 74, who had never been hospitalized before his heart attack, is enjoying good health. He stopped smoking a pipe and resumed his daily walks with Lulu. He is not the big talker in the family so Mary took it on herself to tell his story so that local folks will not think they have to travel to get the best medical care.

“Everybody needs to know the good work being done here,” she said. “It’s so reassuring to know with as many heart problems as people have today that we have great heart doctors here local. Our treatment could not have been better than what we got at B&A.”