Wednesday, July 17, 2013
When he first met his wife nearly four decades ago, David Smith would tease her and say she owed him 1,000 kisses for giving him a hard time. “I haven’t collected them all,” the 57-year-old says as he smiles at her at their Summerville home. “Not yet.”
With his successful quadruple bypass this April, he still has a chance. For that, he thanks the Lord and the heart team at Trident Medical Center (TMC) and Palmetto Cardiovascular & Thoracic Associates.
In fact, TMC has a proven record for quality in coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery and was recently awarded the highest possible rating for the procedure – three stars – by the prestigious Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) as a result of its analysis of the 2012 data.
“The STS results are based on clinical outcomes and place Trident Medical Center in the top 15 percent of hospitals in the country with heart surgery programs,” says Dr. James Benner, Trident Health’s medical director of cardiovascular surgery. The rating reflects the “excellent work and commitment to patients” shown by the entire heart team, which includes the surgical nurses and support staff, the intensive care unit, cardiac catheterization specialists, respiratory therapists and many others.
Last fall, Trident Health recruited Dr. Charles Roberts to the Lowcountry from Virginia to join Dr. Benner and the TMC heart team. The hospital where Dr. Roberts’ previously worked also received a three-star rating for CABG surgery for 2012. Each program had a 100 percent patient survival rate for the year.
“The operation has been done for over 50 years, so the techniques are very well established,” says Dr. Roberts, who operated on Mr. Smith and who has been doing heart surgery for nearly two decades. “There are always risks in heart surgery, but you have to minimize the risks, and that’s where experience helps.”
Mr. Smith openly discusses the habits that led to the blockages in his coronary arteries. He smoked his first cigarette at age 7 and was hooked by 13. And while he has stayed physically active through the years as a martial arts instructor, home painter and comedian, he and his wife admit that their diet became heavy with fried restaurant food once their children were grown.
Three people in his immediate family had died from heart attacks, and there were times when he would be short of breath. Yet, Mr. Smith didn’t realize the extent of his own heart problems until other medical issues surfaced. By the time he had a cardiac work-up, he had unknowingly experienced a small heart attack. Even so, Mr. Smith was reluctant to go through with bypass surgery. It took Dr. Roberts’ confidence to convince him. “He said, ‘You can live a long life if you get this surgery done.’”
Dr. Roberts also remembers their talk. “He had life-threatening blockages in his heart and coronary bypass was the best treatment of that. Naturally, he was apprehensive, but he did beautifully through his surgery, and his recovery was very rapid.”
A man of faith, Mr. Smith told his wife, Mellie, that he wanted her to be reading the Bible to him after surgery. She was there with their three children in the hospital room, reading Psalm 23 when he woke up. He checked out of TMC four days later, and that Sunday, the couple was at their church, World Overcomers Ministries in North Charleston, to the surprise of Pastor Thomas Riley’s wife, Annette, who teased that she didn't have time to get a card.
“I was walking around like a time bomb that could go off at any time,” says Mr. Smith, who stopped smoking and now strives to take care of his body. “I feel like a 7-year-old now. I don’t have any problem doing things I want to do.”
To contact Palmetto Cardiovascular & Thoracic Associates, please call 843-553-5616.
“I was walking around like a time bomb that could go off at any time.”
-David Smith, Cardiac Patient