“The right exit”
As a truck driver, Gary Marshall of Oxford, Wisconsin doesn’t have time to take a sick day. So when the 63-year-old started feeling sick after loading green beans out of a field near Peoria, Illinois in July, he decided to ignore it and continue with his haul.
Shortly after crossing the Wisconsin border, however, he broke out into a cold sweat and decided to take the next exit off the road. “I was soaking wet and both my arms were numb,” Gary says. “I thought I was experiencing heat stroke or having gas pains—I never suspected a heart attack at all. But I got my truck off the road safely without hurting anyone, thank God.”
Gary called 911 and then his wife Vicki, and within minutes, emergency medical technicians were at the door of his semi. They took him to the nearest hospital—Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center. By the time Vicki arrived at the hospital nearly two hours later, Gary was already in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
He had been in such bad condition when he came to Mercyhealth that hospital staff told the EMTs to bypass the emergency room and bring him directly to the cardiac catheterization room. Dr. Gulliver was waiting at the hospital and performed an angioplasty on Gary, during which he used a balloon to open two arteries that had been completely clogged and inserted stents to ensure they remained open.
During the procedure, Gary’s heart stopped once and Dr. Gulliver had to bring him back with an electrical shock. “We owe that doctor so much,” says Vicki. “He is not only a good doctor, but a good person, too. We were just amazed by everyone in that hospital.”
After nearly losing his life, Gary was out of the hospital in just two days. He is now back at work and eats completely different foods than he did before the heart attack—including lots of water and vegetables. “When you come that close to meeting your maker, it really wakes you up,” Gary says. “But thank God I picked the right exit, the right hospital and the right doctor.”
“A long recovery”
Bill Bever, now 69, first noticed strange symptoms the morning of December 22, 2010. “He doesn’t complain, so you never know if he’s really sick,” says his wife, Judy. “So when he told me his body was really aching, I knew it was probably something.”
He headed to Mercyhealth’s emergency room, where doctors determined he was having a heart attack. Mercyhealth cardiologist, Gene Gulliver, MD, performed an angioplasty procedure during which he inserted a catheter into Bill’s groin and inflated a small balloon to open Bill’s blood vessel.
The next day, Bill underwent quintuple bypass surgery under the skilled hands of Mercyhealth cardiothoracic surgeon A. Sandor Goldstein, MD. When he woke up from the surgery on Dec. 24, he couldn’t feel the right side of his body. He had suffered a stroke while he was still unconscious after the surgery.
The next logical step, of course, was recovery, but that was difficult to do after suffering the double whammy of heart surgery and stroke. Mercyhealth cardiothoracic surgeon, Kenneth Wolnak, DO, one of the surgeons who had operated on Bill, came into his room to explain the process. “He was wonderful,” says Bill. “He sat and talked with Judy and me for an hour about what we could expect.”
A couple of weeks after the surgery, Bill was moved to Mercyhealth Manor Transition Center, a short-term nursing home located on the fifth floor of the hospital. He needed intensive rehabilitation, but was just too weak to go to the comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation unit yet.
“That’s the advantage of a setting like Mercyhealth Manor—people who aren’t ready for intensive therapy can recover there and still stay in the same building,” says Kathy Cramer, PT, therapy supervisor at Mercyhealth. Finally, on February 7, Bill transferred to CIR to begin rehabilitation in earnest. The unit includes nine rooms, each of which is designed to feel like home to the patients. One of the rooms is designed more like an apartment than a hospital room; therapists use it for patients who are close to discharge so they have a better sense of what they will encounter when they return home.
In CIR, patients undergo three hours of intensive rehabilitation every day. They eat as a group and everything they do is designed to help them become more prepared for going home. “The nurses on the floor are specially trained to care for these patients,” says Kathy. “Instead of dressing them, as they would other patients, they give them time to struggle through the process on their own. It’s all to promote the patients’ independence.” Additionally, the therapists in CIR are all very experienced. “Everyone has worked here for a minimum of 10 years, and the average is more than 15 years,” says Kathy.