By E.I. Hillin
Phoenix Staff Writer
Tommy Swearengin wouldn’t be celebrating his 43rd birthday April 6 if it weren’t for a new cardiology service at EASTAR Health System.
“I wouldn’t have been able to make it to Tulsa to have this operation done,” Swearengin said.
A collaboration of EASTAR Health System and the Cardiology Clinic of Muskogee provides heart attack patients with services that were previously unavailable.
Four weeks ago, while doing yard work and preparing a rental home, Swearengin said his chest began to feel tight and he ached all the way out to his fingertips.
“I never thought I would have a heart attack,” he said.
Dr. Marvin Padnick, interventional cardiologist and director of the ST-elevation myocardial infarction program (STEMI) at EASTAR, said, “Time is muscle.”
“The faster you open an artery after a heart attack, the more likely you are to save that patient,” Padnick said.
With more than 30 years of cardiology experience, Padnick made the move to Muskogee to start the STEMI program at EASTAR.
“I wanted to join a hospital where I felt I was making a significant impact,” he said.
Mike Gilpin, EASTAR Health System marketing director, said that for local residents, it’s an impact that could save lives.
“Patients with clogged arteries or in need of stents previously would have had to be transferred 30 to 40 minutes. The difference means damage to the heart, or the difference between life and death,” Gilpin said.
Padnick said when Swearengin arrived at the hospital, his artery was closed at the left anterior defending artery.
That particular closure is known by physicians as “a widow maker” because of its lethal location, Padnick said.
For patients suffering a heart attack, the national statistics show that chances of surviving are better if the artery is opened within 90 minutes, Padnick said.
Swearengin’s artery was opened up in 20 minutes, a time that Padnick said is owed to Swearengin’s quick response and the Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service team.
“There’s an excellent system here in Muskogee,” Padnick said.
Swearengin said he was told the primary cause of his heart attack was because of smoking. Since his heart attack, he quit smoking and wears a safety “life vest,” a wearable defibrillator. The vest monitors his heart.
Gilpin said new leadership at EASTAR helped identify needs in the community and led to a focus on specific areas in the hospital.
“Cardiac services is a major area we are focusing on and a need,” Gilpin said.
Other focus areas include women’s services, the intensive care unit, senior care services, and the certified stroke center.
The increased emphasis has been able to attract extremely top-notch physicians such as Padnick to the area, Gilpin said.
“The physicians coming into Muskogee are some of the best trained in the country. They practice where they see the value and see the outcomes,” Gilpin said.
Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.