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Patients and caregivers reunite at event

POSTED: March 24, 2013 12:35 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Ronnie Green Heart Center registered nurses Lauren Wilson, left, and Kelly Sisson talks Friday with heart attack survivors Melvin Reeves, second from right, and Rex Sims at the STEMI Summit at the Gainesville Civic Center.

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When health care workers heal a patient, they often don’t get a chance to see how the patients do after they leave the hospital.

And the patients don’t always get to thank all of the men and women who saved their lives.

But Friday afternoon, two patients who suffered what would surely have been a life-altering — if not life-ending — heart attack got the opportunity to tell the men and women who worked together to save their lives how they feel.

Physicians, nurses and EMTs from the 17-county region attended the Northeast Georgia Health System’s fifth annual STEMI Summit meeting Friday at the Gainesville Civic Center.

The summit’s goal is to provide medical personnel with the opportunity to discuss ways they can work together to increase a patient’s odds of recovery and to learn from leading cardiologists. The summit focuses on a specific type of deadly heart attack, a ST segment elevation myocardial infarction.

One of the best practices discussed at the summit included continuing the practice of cooling a patient’s body to slow vital functions and oxygen use to prevent brain damage.

The Medical Center Foundation’s 2010 golf tournament provided the funding for refrigeration systems for rescue vehicles to use for heart attack victims.

Both patients at Friday’s event were given the treatment during their heart attacks.

Dr. Mohak Davè, medical director for North Georgia Region 2 and White County EMS, introduced the two survivors and their families to the EMTs, nurses and physicians who each had a role in the patient’s survival.

Davè said that while it’s important to learn the science and protocols behind cardiac care, “the most important thing is the ‘why.’”

The reason why was evident as the survivors and their families climbed the stage to shake the hands and hug the men and women who saved them.

Rex Sims suffered a heart attack in November. As he shook the hands of the more than 10 health care professionals, he couldn’t help but let a few tears fall.

“I’m just so grateful that they went to school to learn this stuff, to be caregivers,” Sims said.

His sister, Rhonda Palmer, thanked the crowd of more than 300 for caring enough about their patients to continue their education and attend events like the summit.

She said she’s thankful to all of the people who have dedicated their lives to helping others for the days she’s been given with her brother.

Sims said the near-death experience has given him a new perspective on life. He notices more than he did before.
“I smile because it’s raining,” Sims said.

Melvin Reeves had a similar heart attack in August. He said the hospital personnel who helped him after his ordeal are nothing if not angels.

“It’s great to be alive, Reeves said. “It really is.”

Kelly Sisson and Lauren Wilson, registered nurses at the Ronnie Green Heart Center, said the reunion was especially nice for them because they get very close to patients and their families.

Sisson said that it’s easy to remember all of the bad outcomes and sometimes forget about the people they have helped.

“It’s really cool because we don’t get to see them after they leave,” Sisson said. “We don’t get to see the progress they make and how healthy they look.”

The nurses said they couldn’t help but hug their former patients when they saw how well they’d recovered.

Wilson said it was eye-opening even for her to see how many people are involved with a single patient’s care, from the ambulance to the emergency room and in recovery.

“That was a really good thing to see,” Sisson said. “It’s not just the doctors. It’s not just the nurses. To see everybody up there it was almost shocking to see everybody that put their expertise in.”


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