Charlie Platt's Story


Little did he know, without immediate medical attention, he was running out of time.3954CharliePlatt175x100

Charlie Platt arrived in the Critical Care Unit (CCU) at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in such distress that the nurses and physicians immediately began interventions to save his life by preventing more damage to his heart.

Earlier, this was a typical workday for Platt who was doing what he has done almost every weekday morning from 5:30 to 7 for the past 20 years, hosting his popular talk show, Top of the Morning, on WDHN television.

However, on this day at the office, signing off at the end of the TV show as the cameras faded to black, he felt something wasn't quite right. Platt was experiencing pain in his shoulder, but he made himself believe it was a flare-up of inflammation from scar tissue. He had no idea when he left the studio that morning that he wouldn't be back on the air for two months.

After leaving the station, Platt went to get a haircut and the pain began to intensify.3735CharlieOnSet310x153

"It was hurting, and I began sweating," Platt said.

Later, while doing a telephone interview with a newspaper reporter, Platt couldn't bear the pain any longer. "I knew it wasn't the shoulder. I didn't know what it was, but I knew it wasn't good," he said.

He had planned to go home, eat breakfast, take pain medication for his shoulder and catch a nap. He still shudders to think what would have happened if he had not altered his plans that day. Platt was running out of time, if he didn't seek medical attention.

He phoned his son and asked to be taken to the Emergency Department at SAMC as soon as possible. While he didn't want to say it out loud, in the back of his mind Platt feared it could be his heart.

Emergency Department physicians and nurses immediately began working on Platt to diagnose the problem. Despite not having a family history of heart disease, Platt was a long time cigarette smoker. As his results from the lab work were read, physicians knew there was a serious heart problem.

Cardiologist Darius Aliabadi, MD, of Heart South in Dothan, began preparations for performing a heart catheterization. SAMC offers the region's most comprehensive Heart and Vascular services and in a newly constructed facility.

Platt would be in good hands with Dr. Aliabadi and the highly trained clinical staff in SAMC's Catheterization Lab. The advanced 3-D technology gave Dr. Aliabadi and the clinical team clear images to define the size and length of Platt's blockages. The procedure revealed the damaged arteries were too extensive to place a stent to open blood flow.

The amount of heart disease and blockage Charlie had was out of proportion for his symptoms," Dr. Aliabadi said. "Generally, a person like Charlie with major, three-vessel damage normally would have complained about more symptoms typical of this advanced heart disease."

Instead of a cardiac cath procedure Platt needed open heart surgery. Medically unstable and in critical condition, he was moved to a room in the CCU for intensive medical management in anticipation of the heart surgery. It was at that moment he grasped the facts surrounding his grave situation. "I could hear my family whispering as they tried to talk quietly, and I could see the concern on their faces as they talked to me," Platt said.

Edward Planz Jr., MD, cardiovascular/thoracic surgeon with Southeast Cardiovascular Associates in Dothan, would perform the surgery to clear the blockage, repair the damage and open up blood flow to the heart. Dr. Planz and the area's most experienced cardiovascular surgery team began the bypass surgery and determined that Platt had only four usable pieces of arteries available for his heart bypasses. Dr. Planz told Platt the surgery was the toughest challenge he has had in almost 30 years of practicing as a surgeon.

Dr. Planz later told Platt he has a higher purpose. "The Great Physician up above wants you on this earth for something special," Planz said.

After surgery, Platt stayed on a ventilator for five days in CCU while his heart and his body began the healing process. Typically, a patient is off the ventilator the day after a bypass surgery. It was touch and go for Platt as he was literally in a fight for his life. The third day after surgery, the efforts of Dr. Planz and the CCU nurses were paying off as Platt turned the corner.

"I never realized how many people knew and cared about me," he said as his voice cracked with emotion. "With so many people praying for me, I think God got tired of hearing my name."

Since his surgery, Platt continues to regain his strength.3799CharliePlattCardiacRehab350x153 He returned to his TV show in July and completed his Cardiac Rehab program at SAMC. The Rehab program is a medically supervised exercise and education program certified by the American Associaton of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. After the initial program, Platt chose to continue with a maintenance program at the Cardiac Rehab gym.

"I only live a short distance from the Medical Center, and I have talked on my show for years about what a great medical community we have in Dothan," Platt said. "Now I know firsthand we have world class medical care at the Medical Center. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did, but if they do, they don't have to leave Dothan to get the medical care they need."

For more information about SAMC's comprehensive Heart and Vascular Center, please call 334.793.8143 or visit

Darius Aliabadi, MD, stressed that according to the American Heart Association, everyone is different and warning signs for heart disease do not necessarily include severe pain.

Common symptoms for heart disease, including a heart attack can include:
• Discomfort from the ears to the chest, especially after exertion
• Shortness of breath
• Palpitations
• Fatigue
• A cold sweat
• Nausea
If these symptoms are persistent, see your primary care physician or go to the Emergency Department.

Dr. Aliabadi said while a stress test can determine severe blockage, the only way to know for sure is to have a heart catheterization. "A stress test is just a screening test; the catheterization is the 'gold standard' when it comes to determining heart disease and blockage."

Under Our Branches

There's Security Under Our Branches.2461TreeSculpture175x100

A specially designed wall space in SAMC's Heart & Vascular Center lobby demanded an impressive piece of artwork2461TreeSculpture310x153. Sculptor Chris Ellis diagnosed the situation and found the perfect solution.

When Birmingham sculptor Chris Ellis was first approached about doing a large sculpture for SAMC's newest public lobby, he thought about the emotional connotations of the heart and how man seeks solace in times of pain.

He settled on a tree because it provides shelter, warmth and food, and also symbolizes life. Chris added what he calls a "mama bird" and her nest to the piece, because the Heart & Vascular lobby also serves the Women's Center.

The 14-by-13-foot tree, made of 16- and 18-gauge sheet metal, is impressive.

"It's massive," said Ellis, who was born at SAMC but grew up in Birmingham. "The wall it was built for has a lot of vertical space, so I worried about the wall dwarfing the piece. I was originally going for something more abstract, but I like that it is a tree and the bird is tied to new life. I really like the way it came out."

This is the largest piece Ellis has ever created. 2453HVTreeInstallation310x153The piece consists of a large trunk and about two dozen leaves which he intricately positioned on the wall.

Ellis has been working with metal since 2000, favoring the medium because of its organic quality and the patina it forms. To obtain color he uses chemicals to rust the metal. He believes objects exposed to the elements from decades of use develop character. Nature and time are friends.

He especially likes using sheet metal because it is palpable.020TreeSculptureWorkInProgress310x153 "You can twist and turn it around to get the different shapes. It's all raw metal which goes through a process to give it a vintage look."

Ellis used rubber car belts to get the curved shapes he wanted. Next, the tree was spray painted, sanded and chemically treated to achieve an aged effect. He then applied wood stain to enhance the aging appearance and unify the colors. The tree was clear coated with a satin enamel.

Other pieces by the artist hang in Birmingham's Brookwood Medical Center, the Matt Jones Gallery in Birmingham and the Rymer Gallery in Nashville. SAMC is proud to house this work of art by Chris Ellis.

To find out more about the artist and his work, visit his website at

A Side of Smiles

Food Services Ambassadors bring a personal touch to patient meals.0624RussellWalker310x153

His knowledge of the Nutrition and Food Services department, big smile and easygoing manner, made Russell Walker the perfect choice to pilot a new concierge food services program at SAMC.

"We moved him from the tray line, so he was already assembling food for our patients," said Lesia Hollis, director of Nutrition and Food Services. "As it turns out, all the patients fell in love with Russell."

Walker was later joined by fellow team member Vonda Culver as food service Ambassadors on the orthopedic and neurospine floors. Wearing bright blue chef's shirts, Ambassadors enter each room with the goal of pleasing the patient. The widely successful program is now hospital wide, with 14 Ambassadors serving SAMC patients. Each Ambassador works a 12-hour shift and is responsible for all the meals on an assigned floor.

Ambassadors introduce themselves while delivering the morning breakfast tray and make sure the patient has everything they need. In some cases, that means a quick run down to the kitchen to retrieve hot sauce for eggs or a favorite barbecue sauce. The Ambassadors do everything they can to get the patient the food they want from set menus or from available options.

When Ambassadors return to the rooms to clear the trays, they use a bedside menu entry palm pad to order lunch. That procedure is repeated after lunch to order dinner and breakfast for the next day.

Ambassadors also stock all patient care areas throughout the hospital with beverages and snacks. Even those between-meal snacks have been expanded from juice, pudding and crackers to include boxed sandwiches and soup.

"The patients love it and the nurses love it," Walker said. "This program brings a personal touch to the bedside."

Ambassadors also order food trays for guests so they can remain at the bedside.

The personal touch bedside ordering has also reduced errors and complaints. Patients who may be hospitalized for several days get to know their Ambassadors.

Every action taken by Ambassadors – from knocking on the door and introducing themselves, to anticipating needs by providing condiments and giving a pleasant goodbye – is based on the Medical Center's Service Essentials, a set of behaviors which guides the actions of every employee.

"This is all about the patient," Hollis said. "They are here because something is wrong. They are sick and don't want to be here. The least we can do is exceed their expectations and enhance their experience at SAMC."