|Man given new lease on life after treatment for unusual heart condition.
LANGHORNE, Pa., February 23, 2010 – When Kim Clymer was diagnosed with lung cancer four years ago, he turned to St. Mary Medical Center for the treatment and care that saved his life. Last August, when a heart condition again threatened his life, there was no doubt in his mind where he would put his trust for serious care.
The 64-year-old Bucks County man may not have survived had it not been for the highly skilled team of doctors and nurses throughout the range of cardiovascular services provided at St. Mary. Clymer’s coronary heart disease was far from routine.
“Mr Clymer is lucky to be alive,” says interventional cardiologist Dr. Ronald Fields. “He had a spasm in the left main artery which is extremely rare and hard to diagnose as the condition is not always present. Fortunately, we had all the modalities immediately available at St. Mary to diagnose and treat this extremely critical condition.”
Clymer works part-time on the loading dock at The Bucks County Courier Times. His wife Sue is a nurse in the St. Mary Endoscopy Center.
Clymer’s saga began when he suffered a blackout in Ocean City, NJ. He received emergency treatment and returned home to Bucks County. He was admitted to St. Mary for a heart catheterization. Doctors found a blockage, cleared it, and put in a stent. While on vacation a few days later, Clymer suffered another episode and lost consciousness again, this time on the beach at the Jersey shore.
At Clymer’s request, he was transferred from the shore hospital and admitted to St. Mary, where doctors and nurses in the St. Mary Heart and Vascular Center continued to run tests. During a stress test, Clymer’s heart suddenly stopped and he stopped breathing. Cardiologists and clinical staff trained in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) began resuscitation efforts within seconds. CPR and oxygen delivery continued for more than 45 minutes as doctors worked to save his life.
“They would have never known about the extent of my condition if I didn’t have the stress test done,” says Clymer, a patient of cardiologist Dr. Ronald Fields. “They worked on me for 45 minutes just to keep me alive. At St. Mary, they don’t give up.”
As soon as a heart rhythm was stabilized, Clymer was rushed to the catheterization lab, where Dr. Fields diagnosed him with coronary vasospasm, a unique condition that causes arteries in the heart to spasm and shut down the blood supply to the heart. The spasm was in the left-main artery, which is an extremely critical area, and surgery was recommended. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Todd Nixon was ready and prepared to perform the four-hour emergency double-bypass open-heart surgery that saved Clymer’s life.
“Mr. Clymer was really saved by all those who worked with him,” Dr. Nixon said. “His care, and the care of all patients at St. Mary, is part of the comprehensive team approach provided at our medical center.”
For Clymer, that day “was like a whirlwind” – beyond beginning the stress test and realizing he was about to pass out, he has no memory of the drama that continued to unfold.
“The next thing I knew, I was waking up and my wife told me I had major heart surgery, a double bypass,” he said. “When you wake up, you can’t believe what happened to you.”
Clymer soon discovered that recovery is taken seriously at St. Mary. “They work hard at getting you back to normal as quickly as possible,” Clymer said. “And that’s what I liked. Within a day after surgery they had me sitting up and walking. It was amazing.” He was out of the hospital within a week of having open-heart surgery.
To Clymer’s wife and children, the ordeal of that day is still all too real. However, they feel the care, concern, and compassion of the St. Mary staff gave them a sense of security during his surgery and recovery. “I was terrified, but I knew Kim was in the best hands here at St. Mary,” says his wife Sue. “The doctors and nurses kept us posted every step of the way. I never felt alone or that I didn’t know what was going on.”
Home to the region’s leading heart program, St. Mary performs the most cardiac procedures in Bucks County. Despite the high volume of patients, Clymer says the doctors, nurses, and hospital colleagues provide excellent care in a warm, comfortable environment. And Clymer also felt that doctors and nurses kept him informed throughout the process.
“St. Mary’s heart team is great,” he said. “I had a multitude of doctors for the different symptoms I had. Whatever questions I had, they took the time to answer, especially Dr. Fields. His time is yours, which I really liked. And they must all really interact, because it seemed like every doctor knew what the other one was doing. I liked that, because I’ve seen in other hospitals where it seemed like they had an orchestra, but no conductor. At St. Mary, they had a conductor.”
Clymer’s recovery continued with 36 sessions in Cardiac Rehabilitation at St. Mary. The professional staff at the nationally certified program at St. Mary works to help those with heart disease regain strength and functionality through monitored exercise and educational and nutritional support. Since completing cardiac rehab, Clymer continues to exercise at a step-down program at the St. Mary Wellness Center.
Rehabilitation and exercise have helped Clymer get his life back. He has returned to work, where he is able to perform all the physical tasks of his job, including driving a forklift and loading supplies. Once again, he enjoys his hobbies and playing with his 18-month-old grandson.
“I do sporting events,” he said. “We have a classic car and go to car shows. I hunt, I fish. I guess the things that you cherish now you may have taken for granted before, like playing more with my grandson or walking the dog a longer distance. I just enjoy life. I’m getting a second chance and when you do, you grab hold of it.”
Clymer said he was so pleased with his care at St. Mary, he referred a neighbor to the hospital when she recently had a stroke. “I told her when the ambulance came, ‘Pat, you ought to consider St. Mary,’” he said. “And that’s where she had them take her. She’s fine today.”