Advanced cardiac services with a personal touch

Over the past five years,Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville has transformed into a full-service, tertiary care medical center, enabling us to provide advanced cardiovascular services, including an open heart surgery program.

The close collaboration between Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville is an integral part of our commitment to pair personalized care with advanced technology.

Steve Staabs had a lifestyle not unlike many Americans. He was fairly healthy and took relatively good care of himself.  But when life’s stressors, including a job layoff, began to take their toll, exercise took a back seat and poor eating habits began.

In December 2011, Steve began to make some changes and started to lose weight. During an annual physical in January, his physician ordered a stress test and electrocardiogram.

Concerned with the test results, Steve’s physician referred him to a cardiologist who concurred with the findings.

“He couldn’t tell whether a rib was blocking the path to my heart or if it was something more serious,” says Steve.

What's Wrong?

Steve’s cardiologist came upon a blockage that he couldn’t break through during a heart catheterization that was performed through the wrist. After a second catheterization attempt through the groin was unsuccessful, Steve’s physician prescribed medication to try to break up the blockage to his heart.

But after a week, Steve wasn’t feeling better. He was referred to Larry Watts, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute at Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville.

An Unexpected Discovery

“In many cases, factors such as the failure of medical therapy or the severity of lesions make it necessary
to move forward with surgery,” says Dr. Watts. “Steve had lesions located in areas that made it difficult to perform catheter-based procedures.”

In April, while performing double coronary artery bypass surgery on Steve, Dr. Watts discovered that Steve’s main coronary artery was completely blocked.

“People keep asking me if I was scared to have the surgery, but I had no fear,” says the 50-year-old, who lost his father to heart disease at age 57.

“Knowing my family history, it was the necessary thing to do. I just wanted to get it done.”

Expert Cardiac Care

Steve’s fearless mindset regarding surgery was strengthened by his relationship with Dr. Watts. Thanks to Dr. Watts’ thorough explanations and kind bedside manner, Steve and his wife felt well prepared for the surgery and what to expect during recovery.

“The Sanger group at Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville offers a full spectrum of care for patients with cardiac and thoracic diseases that’s offered in a very personalized way,” says Dr. Watts. The hospital staff dispelled any pre-surgery jitters. During the course of his five-day stay, Steve received exceptional care.

“The nursing staff was so incredible, I’ve gone back to visit just to brag about them,” he says.

Steve’s wife, who’s a nurse, was reassured throughout the surgery with frequent updates from a nurse on the OR team. “Her being a nurse can be good because she knows everything, and a curse because she knows everything,” says Steve. He was grateful that his wife received the care and attention she needed.

During his eight-week recovery before returning to work, Steve continued being cared for by the Sanger team and Dr. Watts, who regularly called him at home to check on his progress.

Getting Back on Track

“I’m feeling much better,” Steve says. “Before the surgery, I had a hard time catching my breath, but I’m getting my stamina back.”

Having recently started a cardiac rehabilitation program, which includes classes on health and wellness, Steve feels more informed and empowered to take proper care of himself. He describes his adoption of a healthier lifestyle as a process.

“You do what you have to do; you eat better, drink more water and exercise, and the process runs its course.” It seems to be working. Steve has lost 35 pounds since the beginning of the year.

Steve credits his family, Dr. Watts and the Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville staff with helping him through surgery, recovery and his transition to better health. But he also makes a special point to credit his faith.
“Family and people are important,” Steve says. “But personal faith is just as important.”