With 28 acute care hospitals and a growing number of freestanding emergency departments, Universal Health Services is committed to helping people in the communities we serve to live heart-healthy lives, and to being there when people face heart-related emergencies.
Heart disease remains the most common cause of death in the United States, and that is not expected to change in the foreseeable future, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, research from a variety of sources has shown that COVID-19 infections have generally increased the possibility of cardiovascular events, especially among people who are already at risk.
It's important to be in a relationship with a primary care provider. They can help to identify cardiovascular issues and address them effectively. And it's important to seek care if you think you are having a possible cardiovascular event. Contrary to the idea of a heart attack being sudden and massive, many cardiovascular issues make themselves known through an accumulation of symptoms over days and even weeks. It's important to identify issues and seek care as soon as possible.
“It’s critical that people take note of symptoms and engage with their healthcare providers to identify and treat heart disease early,” says Paul Stefanacci, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Acute Care Division, UHS. “This is important to lower the risk of serious complications and even death. Remember that heart disease can manifest itself in different ways, but can impact women and men, and individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.”
The following are examples of the range of experiences people can have, and of UHS' commitment to care.
A Winning Bet
Billy Noordin thought it was food poisoning when he came down with the worst stomach illness of his life. It was so concerning that his wife convinced him to go to the hospital. Shortly after his arrival in the emergency room at Las Vegas' Valley Hospital, his doctors quickly determined that the problem was not his stomach, but his heart.
Indeed, Noordin, 67, had problems. He knew he had high blood pressure, but doctors quickly discovered he also had an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation. More urgently, cardiothoracic surgery specialist Quynh Feikes, MD, found that he had a tear in his aorta, the crucial artery leaving the heart, and would need immediate emergency surgery. “I was lucky that Dr. Feikes did more tests. She said it was going to be a long operation, and my chances of survival were fifty-fifty,” Noordin says. “This is Vegas. Fifty-fifty is better than zero. I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”
The surgery was a success and Noordin is taking medications to manage his health and blood pressure. “All the nurses and doctors were absolutely A-plus,” Noordin says. "That's why I'm still alive today."
A Change of Heart
Richard Green, 74, is a former Marine with a taste for travel and a meat-heavy diet — and a history of heart disease, including several heart attacks and two heart procedures. The resident of McAllen, Texas, also had a desire to do better, which led him to enroll in the Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at South Texas Health System Heart. The program uses a holistic approach that involves supervised exercise, nutritional counseling, stress management and emotional support.
It's been good for Green. His bloodwork has gone from being in the prediabetic range to normal, and he has regained his stamina. “The program has changed my life and how I look at things, absolutely,” Green says. “I’m healthier now, I can walk farther now and when the cardiologist finally tells me I’m good to go for more adventures, I’m off.”
A Scary Lesson
Temecula, Calif., resident Jayson Fanning was picking his daughter up from school when he collapsed. Fortunately, the school nurse on campus initiated CPR on Fanning, a Riverside County police officer responding to the 911 call helped too, and the EMT crew intubated him on the school campus.
Fanning was taken to Temecula Valley Hospital, where testing revealed he had suffered a heart attack and a CPR-induced stroke. Surgery removed a blockage in his left anterior descending artery (the infamous "widowmaker"). But Fanning wasn't out of the woods. He developed pneumonia and spent 40 days at Temecula Valley Hospital under the care of the hospital’s ICU, Cardiac and Respiratory teams. “Man, they’re good at what they do here,” said Fanning. “The staff worked tirelessly against every obstacle we faced and got me back on my feet and home to my family.”
A Flutter in the Night
Richelle Blackwell-Jones, 53, had been dealing with a lot of stress, including the death of her husband a year earlier, when she found her heart racing on a December night in 2021. Between the heart palpitations and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she was nervous about going to the ER, but her daughter insisted.
Once Blackwell-Jones arrived at Palmdale (Calif.) Regional Medical Center, the staff set her at ease, and the testing that followed showed she was not having a heart attack. Before she was discharged, her ER team shared ways to relieve the stress that was causing her symptoms. “The fact that I was under such stress, to find comfort that night was so important,” she says. She is no longer experiencing heart palpitations and is better coping with stress. She encourages others to get immediate help if they experience symptoms of a heart condition. “Seek help because heart disease is such a common killer," Blackwell-Jones says. "Don’t ignore little things based on just feeling like they will go away.”