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2021 Heart Annual Report

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patient stories

How does it feel to finally have your medical mystery solved? To receive expert care close to home? Or to know that your provider truly cares? These heart and vascular testimonials go beyond the numbers to illustrate the world-class care and life-altering results that patients achieve at the SCL Health family of hospitals.

Howard came in for a new procedure on his heart. He left with a new lease on life.

Beating cancer takes heart. Now Stephanie’s is stronger than ever.

Doctors solve mystery of a healthy man’s sudden cardiac arrest

Not many people die and live to tell about it. Robert Mwangi did.

June 20, 2015, was his day of miracles. While helping a friend move, Mwangi, 37 at the time, stopped at a red light behind his friend in the moving truck. When it turned green, his friend proceeded. Mwangi did not. His heart had abruptly stopped beating.

Someone called 911 and in one minute an ambulance arrived. Mwangi had suffered “sudden cardiac death” but paramedics were able to successfully resuscitate him.

“By the grace of God, I’m still here today,” said Mwangi. “If that had happened at home or if the ambulance didn’t arrive so quickly, I would not have made it.”

After his cardiac arrest, doctors installed a defibrillator to restore his heartbeat if it stopped and prescribed a beta blocker.

Seeking the expertise at SCL Health

In 2020, Mwangi moved from Aurora to Brighton, Colorado and wanted a doctor closer to his home. That’s where he met with Dr. Donald Rabor, a cardiologist with Platte Valley Medical Center.

When Mwangi had another episode, Rabor studied the defibrillator data. “He told me, ‘Robert, I think I know what’s wrong with your heart’ — something I’d been wanting to hear since 2015,” said Mwangi.

An electrophysiology (EP) study assessed the electrical activity of Mwangi’s heart and discovered an arrhythmia.

“There’s a part of his heart in the lower chamber that would spontaneously generate an electrical impulse that triggered a very fast rhythm overtaking his normal heart rhythm, resulting in circulatory collapse,” explained Dr. Rabor.

World-class heart care close to home

SCL Health offers advanced electrocardiology services with three electrophysiologists performing EP services including ablation, defibrillators, pacemakers, and medication management, explained Dr. Ruchika D. Husa, medical director of cardiovascular services in the Denver area.

Mwangi’s story is one example of SCL Health’s world-class heart care around the Denver Metro area.

SCL Health doctors also treat heart failure, heart attacks, arrhythmia, and valve, vascular, and arterial diseases.

Also in the SCL Health family, Saint Joseph Hospital is the only Colorado hospital to achieve the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ three-star rating (its highest) for cardiovascular surgery outcomes. Nationwide, only 1-2% of hospitals earn that distinction, Dr. Husa said.

“For being a nonacademic center, the breadth of services that we provide with these quality outcomes is impressive.”

For Dominic, minimally invasive mitral valve repair delivered immediate, life-changing results.

Keeping Montana’s hearts beating strong

Innovations in heart care are helping people live longer, heal faster and enjoy a better quality of life. Kelly Smarsh of Laurel, Montana, knows this first hand based on his recent experience at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. “If it weren’t for my care team doing what they did, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” said Smarsh, 80, who sought treatment for congestive heart failure at St. Vincent. “It made a world of difference in my life.”

While open-heart surgery is often a more common treatment, it may not be an option for patients like Smarsh due to a number of factors. However, when reviewing his case, Smarsh’s care team determined that he was an ideal candidate for two less-invasive procedures: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and a MitraClip Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair.

Smarsh had the TAVR procedure about a year and a half ago and followed it with a MitraClip procedure 40 days later. The results were life-altering.

“Before the surgery, it got to where I could hardly breathe,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything. I had no energy. We have five acres where we live, and as I got weaker, it was hard to get the lawn mowed and keep up with the fences. I just had to cut so many things short.”

After both procedures, Smarsh spent just a single night in the hospital.

“The recovery time was nothing,” he said. “I kept working with their [team]. I felt so much better right away. It was nothing at all compared to if they had to open me up.”

Smarsh says he feels “15 or 20 years younger.” He and his wife have begun to travel again, and he is back to walking his vast property. According to the hospital’s survey, patients who undergo a TAVR procedure see their quality of life improve by more than 90% on average.

Expanding access

Previously reserved for patients at elevated risk for traditional valve surgery, St. Vincent now provides this life-altering, innovative and minimally invasive alternative for patients with severe, symptomatic calcific aortic stenosis.

The St. Vincent team recently performed its 100th MitraClip procedure, placing it among the country’s top 10 percent of hospitals. Next milestone on the horizon, the 300th TAVR procedure.

“We do these [procedures] with the heart surgeons,” said Dr. Robert Terry, aninterventional cardiologist at St. Vincent. “Patients come to the hospital one day, and they usually go home the next day. They must allow the groin to heal, so [they are limited to] light activity for a week. And then they’re back to full activity.”

Bringing care across Montana

“One thing that makes St. Vincent and our programs exemplary, we’re part of a larger health system,” said Dr. Terry. “For some of these procedures, we can work with our colleagues in Denver, Colorado. So we have the advantage of being in a larger system that helps to bring technology to our market faster.”

SCL Health’s facilities offer continuity of care that other health systems in the region may not. “It’s a huge advantage to our patients. We can have them go to any one of our hospitals and know they are going to get top-notch care,” said Kevin Dennehy, St. James Healthcare, Vice President of Business Development Strategies and SCL Health’s Lead for Montana Cardiovascular Services.

All three SCL Health facilities in Montana have cardiac catheterization labs and perform tests and minimally invasive procedures. If a patient needs a higher level of care due to a more severe condition, the teams at St. James in Butte and Holy Rosary in Miles City have streamlined processes to ensure a safe and easy transfer to St. Vincent.

“Our philosophy at SCL Health is we want to keep healthcare close to home,” Dennehy stated. “With St. Vincent, we can send our patients from Butte or Miles City to Billings and still have them close to home for a better recovery.”

A patient-centric approach

SCL Health takes an individualized approach to treating a wide range of heart and vascular conditions, including arrhythmia and heart rhythm disorders, atrial fibrillation, congenital heart defects, heart attacks, heart failure, heart valve disease, pulmonary hypertension and arterial vascular disease.

The first step in treating cardiovascular patients is to make sure they know what’s happening in their bodies.

“It’s essential for the patient and their family to understand what’s going on,” Dr. Terry said. “Often, this can be very frightening to them.” So he explains everything in everyday language, so they have a good understanding.

From there, Dr. Terry says he and his patients discuss treatment options. Those options often involve a procedure or medications, though lifestyle modifications are also on the table.

In his conversations with patients, Dr. Terry highlights that patients have complete control over their course of treatment. Sometimes that means opting not to have a procedure and doing what is possible to improve quality of life.

Making patients feel comfortable

“It just felt like they cared,” Smarsh said. “It was a fantastic experience — all of it. Entering the hospital, they made sure you were comfortable. Then, when you go in for surgery, all the doctors and nurses check in on you. Everybody was fantastic to work with.”

An innovative approach to aortic valve replacement saved Jerry from a second open heart surgery.

patient stories

How does it feel to finally have your medical mystery solved? To receive expert care close to home? Or to know that your provider truly cares? These heart and vascular testimonials go beyond the numbers to illustrate the world-class care and life-altering results that patients achieve at the SCL Health family of hospitals.

BACK TO TOP

Howard came in for a new procedure on his heart. He left with a new lease on life.

BACK TO TOP

Beating cancer takes heart. Now Stephanie’s is stronger than ever.

BACK TO TOP

Doctors solve mystery of a healthy man’s sudden cardiac arrest

Not many people die and live to tell about it. Robert Mwangi did.

June 20, 2015, was his day of miracles. While helping a friend move, Mwangi, 37 at the time, stopped at a red light behind his friend in the moving truck. When it turned green, his friend proceeded. Mwangi did not. His heart had abruptly stopped beating.

Someone called 911 and in one minute an ambulance arrived. Mwangi had suffered “sudden cardiac death” but paramedics were able to successfully resuscitate him.

“By the grace of God, I’m still here today,” said Mwangi. “If that had happened at home or if the ambulance didn’t arrive so quickly, I would not have made it.”

After his cardiac arrest, doctors installed a defibrillator to restore his heartbeat if it stopped and prescribed a beta blocker.

Seeking the expertise at SCL Health

In 2020, Mwangi moved from Aurora to Brighton, Colorado and wanted a doctor closer to his home. That’s where he met with Dr. Donald Rabor, a cardiologist with Platte Valley Medical Center.

When Mwangi had another episode, Rabor studied the defibrillator data. “He told me, ‘Robert, I think I know what’s wrong with your heart’ — something I’d been wanting to hear since 2015,” said Mwangi.

An electrophysiology (EP) study assessed the electrical activity of Mwangi’s heart and discovered an arrhythmia.

“There’s a part of his heart in the lower chamber that would spontaneously generate an electrical impulse that triggered a very fast rhythm overtaking his normal heart rhythm, resulting in circulatory collapse,” explained Dr. Rabor.

World-class heart care close to home

SCL Health offers advanced electrocardiology services with three electrophysiologists performing EP services including ablation, defibrillators, pacemakers, and medication management, explained Dr. Ruchika D. Husa, medical director of cardiovascular services in the Denver area.

Mwangi’s story is one example of SCL Health’s world-class heart care around the Denver Metro area.

SCL Health doctors also treat heart failure, heart attacks, arrhythmia, and valve, vascular, and arterial diseases.

Also in the SCL Health family, Saint Joseph Hospital is the only Colorado hospital to achieve the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ three-star rating (its highest) for cardiovascular surgery outcomes. Nationwide, only 1-2% of hospitals earn that distinction, Dr. Husa said.

“For being a nonacademic center, the breadth of services that we provide with these quality outcomes is impressive.”

BACK TO TOP

For Dominic, minimally invasive mitral valve repair delivered immediate, life-changing results.

BACK TO TOP

Keeping Montana’s hearts beating strong

Innovations in heart care are helping people live longer, heal faster and enjoy a better quality of life. Kelly Smarsh of Laurel, Montana, knows this first hand based on his recent experience at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. “If it weren’t for my care team doing what they did, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” said Smarsh, 80, who sought treatment for congestive heart failure at St. Vincent. “It made a world of difference in my life.”

While open-heart surgery is often a more common treatment, it may not be an option for patients like Smarsh due to a number of factors. However, when reviewing his case, Smarsh’s care team determined that he was an ideal candidate for two less-invasive procedures: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and a MitraClip Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair.

Smarsh had the TAVR procedure about a year and a half ago and followed it with a MitraClip procedure 40 days later. The results were life-altering.

“Before the surgery, it got to where I could hardly breathe,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything. I had no energy. We have five acres where we live, and as I got weaker, it was hard to get the lawn mowed and keep up with the fences. I just had to cut so many things short.”

After both procedures, Smarsh spent just a single night in the hospital.

“The recovery time was nothing,” he said. “I kept working with their [team]. I felt so much better right away. It was nothing at all compared to if they had to open me up.”

Smarsh says he feels “15 or 20 years younger.” He and his wife have begun to travel again, and he is back to walking his vast property. According to the hospital’s survey, patients who undergo a TAVR procedure see their quality of life improve by more than 90% on average.

Expanding access

Previously reserved for patients at elevated risk for traditional valve surgery, St. Vincent now provides this life-altering, innovative and minimally invasive alternative for patients with severe, symptomatic calcific aortic stenosis.

The St. Vincent team recently performed its 100th MitraClip procedure, placing it among the country’s top 10 percent of hospitals. Next milestone on the horizon, the 300th TAVR procedure.

“We do these [procedures] with the heart surgeons,” said Dr. Robert Terry, aninterventional cardiologist at St. Vincent. “Patients come to the hospital one day, and they usually go home the next day. They must allow the groin to heal, so [they are limited to] light activity for a week. And then they’re back to full activity.”

Bringing care across Montana

“One thing that makes St. Vincent and our programs exemplary, we’re part of a larger health system,” said Dr. Terry. “For some of these procedures, we can work with our colleagues in Denver, Colorado. So we have the advantage of being in a larger system that helps to bring technology to our market faster.”

SCL Health’s facilities offer continuity of care that other health systems in the region may not. “It’s a huge advantage to our patients. We can have them go to any one of our hospitals and know they are going to get top-notch care,” said Kevin Dennehy, St. James Healthcare, Vice President of Business Development Strategies and SCL Health’s Lead for Montana Cardiovascular Services.

All three SCL Health facilities in Montana have cardiac catheterization labs and perform tests and minimally invasive procedures. If a patient needs a higher level of care due to a more severe condition, the teams at St. James in Butte and Holy Rosary in Miles City have streamlined processes to ensure a safe and easy transfer to St. Vincent.

“Our philosophy at SCL Health is we want to keep healthcare close to home,” Dennehy stated. “With St. Vincent, we can send our patients from Butte or Miles City to Billings and still have them close to home for a better recovery.”

A patient-centric approach

SCL Health takes an individualized approach to treating a wide range of heart and vascular conditions, including arrhythmia and heart rhythm disorders, atrial fibrillation, congenital heart defects, heart attacks, heart failure, heart valve disease, pulmonary hypertension and arterial vascular disease.

The first step in treating cardiovascular patients is to make sure they know what’s happening in their bodies.

“It’s essential for the patient and their family to understand what’s going on,” Dr. Terry said. “Often, this can be very frightening to them.” So he explains everything in everyday language, so they have a good understanding.

From there, Dr. Terry says he and his patients discuss treatment options. Those options often involve a procedure or medications, though lifestyle modifications are also on the table.

In his conversations with patients, Dr. Terry highlights that patients have complete control over their course of treatment. Sometimes that means opting not to have a procedure and doing what is possible to improve quality of life.

Making patients feel comfortable

“It just felt like they cared,” Smarsh said. “It was a fantastic experience — all of it. Entering the hospital, they made sure you were comfortable. Then, when you go in for surgery, all the doctors and nurses check in on you. Everybody was fantastic to work with.”

BACK TO TOP

An innovative approach to aortic valve replacement saved Jerry from a second open heart surgery.

2021 Heart & Vascular Annual Report for SCL Health, now Intermountain Healthcare.

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