When Ora Sims started having heart trouble back in 1994, he had no idea that the next 22 years would lead him down a winding path littered with blocked coronary arteries, severe chest pain, heart catheterizations, traditional stents and eventually a new type of heart stent that he hopes will help him beat the odds that genetics has stacked against him.
While traveling along that path, he saw heart attacks take the lives of his parents and his brother, who died of a massive heart attack in his sleep.
Despite a strong family history of heart disease and his own lifelong battle with high blood pressure, this retired timber cutter from Brooksville, Miss., still considered himself fairly healthy.
He did become alarmed when he started having on and off again chest pain in December 2015. Sims said he thought it was “the big one” when during the course of three weeks the pain became more frequent and more intense. The intensified pain prompted a visit to the emergency room at Baptist Golden Triangle and then to his cardiologist, Dr. Bart Williams, in Columbus the next day. When Sims continued having chest pain after a stress test, Williams performed a heart catheterization and found the origin of his pain–a blocked artery.
Because Sims had an adverse drug reaction to antiplatelet therapy following a previous stent, he was a perfect candidate for the new FDA-approved Synergy™ bioabsorbable polymer stent. The stent was implanted in Sims’ blocked coronary artery by interventional cardiologist Dr. Joon Chang on Dec. 28, marking the first use of the device in North Mississippi and in the Baptist Memorial Health Care system.
“This new stent system features a drug coating and polymer that are fully absorbed by the body after delivering the drug to the artery. The drug keeps the patient’s blood from forming a clot in the stent and promotes faster healing after the procedure. The Synergy™ polymer is fully absorbed after three months, leaving behind a bare platinum chromium stent,” explained Sherry Elmore, director of Baptist Golden Triangle’s cardiovascular services.
As part of the treatment plan after stent placement, all patients who have received a drug-coated stent must take a second medication following the procedure, referred to as dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT), to prevent a blood clot in the artery, which can cause a heart attack or even death. It is recommended that patients who have the traditional stent take this second medication for at least 12 months.
“With this new bioabsorbable polymer drug-eluting stent, patients are only on this second medication for three months. There are people who are unable to have elective surgeries, such as back or knee surgery, for a year or longer after receiving a traditional stent because they have to take their antiplatelet drug. But patients who get the new stent take the drug for a shorter time, so they can have elective surgery sooner without risk of a clot in the stent,” Sherry explained.
“Having this new stent as an option in the cath lab keeps Baptist Golden Triangle on the leading edge of cardiovascular care,” said Dr. John King, interventional cardiologist and medical director of Baptist Golden Triangle’s cardiac catheterization lab.
Baptist Golden Triangle Administrator Paul Cade agrees. “We are excited to offer this new stenting procedure as an option for our cardiac patients and very proud to be the first hospital in our Baptist system to actually implant it.”
Meanwhile, Sims’ family history of heart disease is always in the back of his mind. But, he says, he does try to offset that genetic factor as much as possible by living a healthy lifestyle. He doesn’t smoke or drink. He walks at least three times a week on his treadmill; raises a garden and tends to his peach and pear trees to have an adequate supply of fresh fruits and vegetables; watches his sugar, salt and fat intake; and avoids processed foods.
He also turns to nature when creating his own natural medicinal tonic of apple cider vinegar, honey and garlic that he always keeps in a glass jar in the door of his refrigerator. “Sometimes I take a couple of gulps of it, and sometimes I just pour some in a glass and sip on it during the day,” Sims said with a sly, but confident smile.
“You can never put enough emphasis on taking care of yourself,” he said. “I just try to do a little better every day… and pray a lot.”