Health First Hosts Tearful But Joyful Patient Reunion at Holmes Regional Medical Center Heart Center
By Space Coast Daily // March 13, 2023
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women – and of any ethnicity
HEALTH FIRST SURGEON: It’s incredibly emotional to have you walk in. Your kids are my kids’ ages.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – At the Heart Center at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center, world-class physicians, nurses and techs work tirelessly to repair arteries and stabilize heartbeats – to make heart recovery possible for our community. And tirelessly means middle-of-the-night shifts.
“My wife will tell you, we get up in the middle of the night a lot of times to do these things,” Health First Interventional Cardiologist Steve Karas, MD, told his patient. “It’s so rewarding to see where you are right now.”
Dr. Karas was speaking to Lora Vanmeir of Sebastian at a reunion celebration inside the Heart Center atrium. Vanmeir and another patient, Henry Dexter of Melbourne, and their families were joined by dozens of Heart Center clinicians and staff, including Karas and fellow Interventional Cardiologists Thierry Momplaisir, MD, and Dinesh Patel, MD, and by a few Brevard County Fire Rescue first responders.
“Well, I’m very grateful,” said Vanmeir. “I told my daughter, ‘My main point in coming here is – I’ve got to meet Dr. Karas, to thank him for saving my life.’ ”
Both Vanmeir and Dexter were saved by minimally invasive catheterizations, and an external heart pump called Impella. The night was organized with help from Abiomed, maker of the Impella heart pump.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women – and of any ethnicity. Every 40 seconds, someone has a heart attack,” said Dr. Patel.
“In the gravest of grave conditions, newer devices like Impella help.”
Impella is a heart pump that can be inserted in the femoral artery and travels up the body to the heart’s left ventricle. There, it pulls blood from the chamber and pumps it into the aorta, effectively doing the work the heart is struggling to. It can maintain arterial blood pressure during a corrective but delicate operation such as an angioplasty or stenting.
That was the key role it played in Mr. Dexter’s and Ms. Vanmeir’s cases.
“I’ve been practicing 17 years, and I have to say, one of the things that impresses me most about Health First is its commitment to really establishing this hospital as a state-of-the-art cardiovascular Center of Excellence, and what that means is really, there is not any condition that can present here, at the ER or the Cath Lab, that our facility and our physicians cannot handle,” Dr. Momplaisir said.
“We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to ensure that we have the latest technology,” and Impella is another example, he said.
When Dr. Karas began practicing, he told the audience, the standard of care for conditions like these patients’ was nitroglycerin and heparin and bed rest.” Impella, he said, is the latest advance that follows in a line from thrombolytic therapies to balloon angioplasties to stents.
“It’s incredibly emotional to have you walk in,” he told his patient. “I want to thank you for coming, for participating, for allowing us to share your incredible tale.”
Her four children are about the ages of his children, he told her in a quieter moment after – “it makes it all worth it.”
“Our hospital staff works each day to turn unbelievable stories into reality,” said Angelica Rastegarlari, Hospital Administrator. “To do that, it takes great teams [working with] technology like Impella that have allowed us to achieve great outcomes.”
“An event like this allows us to complete the full circle of care.”
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