Geoff Rose, MD, chief of cardiology at Sanger
If you have a heart condition, you don’t want to wait months for an appointment. Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute understands and has started offering guaranteed appointments to patients either within the same or next day of seeking treatment.
As part of its long-standing commitment to providing high-quality cardiovascular care throughout the region, Sanger revolutionized its care model in January to better meet the expanding needs of its patients and providers. Not only are patients guaranteed appointments, but now they will have a team assigned to their care. Any patient seen at a Sanger location in North or South Carolina will be assigned to a team made up of cardiologists and cardiology sub-specialists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses – working together to provide the best care.
Physicians and advanced care practitioners (ACP) will work together so that patients better understand their ACP is an extension of their physician. So on return visits, patients will see the appropriate practitioner based on individualized needs, allowing physicians to see an increased number of new patients and complex return patients.
“The new model is part of the system’s commitment to transforming how we provide care so that we can better serve our patients,” said Geoff Rose, MD, chief of cardiology at Sanger. “Through the implementation of these changes, including the introduction of a robust care team, patients will benefit from increased access to the high-quality level of care that they have come to expect from us.”
Traevon Lytle is a valuable member of his middle school’s wrestling team in Morganton. Less than a year ago, doctors were uncertain if he would ever play sports again. But this 14-year-old Liberty Middle School student survived open-heart surgery in September and is back to his typical activities, including winning the Foothills Athletic Conference wrestling championship in his weight class.
No one would have guessed Traevon had a heart condition. He has no family history of heart disease, and he is a three-sport athlete. So, when he starting feeling exceptionally fatigued after playing sports, Traevon thought it was just sports-related exhaustion.
Last spring, Traevon needed a sports physical in order to continue playing. Thankfully, Traevon’s mom, Dana Davis, a pre-K teacher in Burke County, took him to Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge’s Athlete at Heart sports-specific health screening.
As part of the screening, student-athletes receive an electrocardiogram which is read by Blue Ridge’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologists. Traevon’s showed an abnormality – one that usually is found in autopsy reports. Benjamin Peeler, MD, at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, said Traevon’s right coronary artery stemmed from the back of his aorta instead of the front, like it should.
Her performed open heart surgery to correct the condition. “Traevon had an unroofing of an anomalous right coronary artery. The opening into the coronary artery is too small, so that can restrict the amount of blood that goes into the coronary artery,” Dr. Peeler said. “When these patients exercise they’re at risk for a heart attack, sudden death or a dangerous heart rhythm problem.”
“There are many cardiac and non-cardiac health issues that would make participation in competitive sports activities unwise,” said Mark Hazen, MD, an adult cardiologist with the Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute at CHCSBR. “The health screening provided by Blue Ridge looks for these problems. It is hoped that individuals found to be at increased risk can either have the health problem corrected so the athlete can compete, such as in Traevon’s case, or prevent the athlete at risk from being placed in a position that could lead to a potentially bad outcome.”
Blue Ridge has been providing free sports physicals to the student-athletes in high school, middle school and home-school since 2007, but only added the free electrocardiograms in 2011. “We decided to add them to our sports physicals because of the stories about students collapsing after or in the middle of games,” said Myron Stephens, LAT, ATC, sports medicine manager.
Davis was told that Traveon’s condition is most often found in autopsy reports. “The Athlete at Heart program saved my son’s life,” said Traevon’s mother.
“It was a very informative process,” Davis said. “Everybody was very forthcoming and they let us know everything that was going on, every step that would be taken and every measure that they would take.”
Almost a year later from Traevon’s first Athlete at Heart screening, he is back doing what he loves most — playing sports. “I’m really thankful that they found it when they did and that nothing happened before that,” Traevon said.
“Traevon is a great example of how the screenings can find a life-threatening problem that was potentially a silent killer,” Dr. Peeler said. “A lot of these heart defects in a young patient can be completely unnoticed, but are quite serious. The screenings are our chance to detect these problems.”