Time Matters Most

When Time Matters Most.

TeleHealth initiative allows for quicker stroke assessment.1187TelehealthStrokeCart

When it comes to stroke care, no one is more committed than Southeast Alabama Medical Center. SAMC is the first and only hospital in the area offering 24/7 neurosurgery coverage and now access to stroke specialists through the Alabama Partnership for TeleHealth.

This allows SAMC's Stroke Team to provide quicker diagnosis and treatment for stroke patients.

And it reinforces our dedication to excellence. We were the first hospital in the region to achieve the American Heart Association's 2012 GOLD PLUS Stroke Award.

"We are very excited to have this new technology," said Stephen Fernandez, MD, interventional radiologist with Radiology Associates of Dothan. "Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the nation and the number one cause of disability, so we are pleased to have these new developments in telemedicine to quickly evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations, who, without telemedicine, would not normally have timely access to this higher level of life-saving care."

The TeleHealth initiative saves valuable time for the patient. When first responders arrive on the scene, they will assess the patient and determine through a stroke protocol if the patients is potentially suffering a stroke. If the patient is a potential stroke victim, a call will be made to the Emergency Department at SAMC alerting them of the situation.

At that time, a Stroke Alert will be called internally and the CT Department and Laboratory Services will be placed on standby. A Critical Care Unit nurse and house supervisor will report to the Emergency Department and begin monitoring patient information as it comes in.

Once the patient arrives at SAMC, an Emergency Department physician will assess the condition of the patient and alert a neurologist. The physician can speak with the patient by video linkup in the Emergency Department.

This vital link is potentially life-saving by allowing for a quicker stroke diagnosis to determine if the clot-busting drug tPA should be administered for those who arrive within the time frame and who medically qualify for the drug.

SAMC's nationally ranked stroke team, consisting of a rehabilitative therapist, case manager, neurologist, neurosurgeon, radiologist, clinical specialist and other support personnel, work in concert for the best outcomes for all stroke patients.

The Philanthropic Women's Society of the SAMC Foundation donated more than $55,000 toward the TeleHealth technology, to purchase an Acute Stroke TeleHealth Cart.

"The Women's Society felt there was a need for this service in the small- to medium-sized hospitals in our service area," said Kristi Smith, chair of the Philanthropic Women's Society.

"They also recognized that providing two Telehealth carts could help save lives and prevent more serious damage to the brain. In our very first year, this group of 58 women who each contributed $1,000 pooled their philanthropic dollars and chose a project that will have a dramatic impact on healthcare in our community."

The region's most comprehensive Stroke Team includes the SAMC Emergency Department, Laboratory Services, CT, Pharmacy, Critical Care, Hospitalists and Nursing. We will also be working in concert with area EMS personnel and ambulance providers.

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 samc.org.

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 www.sweatshopmetalworks.com