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FirstHealth of the Carolinas
5,000 a winning number for heart care

The fact that he went home a celebrity came as a complete surprise.

Bridger’s triple bypass marked a milestone for the cardiac program at Moore Regional: It was the 5,000th open-heart surgery performed at the hospital.

Mr. and Mrs. Solomon Bridger enjoy some time together at their Scotland County home following his successful heart bypass surgery at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.

“I didn’t find out I was number 5,000 until after surgery,” Bridger says. “Honestly, what mattered to me was getting the best. When someone starts working on my heart, I want to know that I’m in good hands.”

John Krahnert, M.D., the cardiac surgeon who performed the first open-heart procedure at Moore Regional 17 years ago, also operated on Bridger.

“I may have been the one in the operating room managing the case, but the success of this surgery, all the ones that came before it, and those that will be performed in the future, are the result of a dedicated team,” he says.

For the staff and physicians associated with Bridger’s surgery, the milestone represents more than a simple number. It is a statement about the quality of care and level of commitment available for the residents of Moore County and surrounding areas.

About half of all heart patients cared for at Moore Regional live in Moore County. The remaining 50 percent cover a span of counties including, but not limited to Hoke, Montgomery, Scotland, Lee and Richmond.

Heart surgery at MRH
Heart disease, or coronary artery disease, is caused by the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries. It is a problem that has evolved as the world has become more modernized.

The mass production of food, coupled with changes in technology, has encouraged people to lead more sedentary lifestyles— which contribute to risk factors for heart disease.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.,” says Roger Noble, director of Cardiology Services at Moore Regional. “The dollars we invest in heart care touch a tremendous number of lives. Overall, we treat around 5,500 patients annually for heart-related problems.”

Of that total, about 400 require openheart surgery.

The open-heart surgery program at Moore Regional Hospital began in 1990. In 17 years, it has achieved unprecedented success.

“Our success rate surpasses both state and national statistics,” says Noble. “We have been able to lay a strong foundation on which to build our future heartcare programs. We have added outreach services to area communities, and we have a strong commitment to education and prevention.”

Currently, three cardiothoracic surgeons serve the needs of patients at MRH. They are Andy C. Kiser, M.D.; John E. Streitman, M.D.; and Dr. Krahnert. Patients in the mid-Carolinas also benefit from the services of a variety of other heart professionals—cardiologists, perfusionists (team members who operate the heart-lung machine) and other members of the OR staff, rehabilitation professionals and an “A+” nursing team.

“An open-heart surgery is a unique setting,” says Kelly Garner, the operating room’s cardiothoracic supervisor. “It requires a variety of specialties working literally elbow to elbow. There are a minimum of seven individuals who provide care just in the operating room.”

Additional staff members assist with recovery and rehabilitation following the procedure.

The heart-care team
Sheryl Loehr, R.N., CCRN-CSC, has been involved in Moore Regional’s open-heart program since the first surgery was performed in 1990.

“All of us have the same goal,” says Loehr, who works in the CVT unit. “We’re there to help the patient. We are the eyes and ears of the physicians during recovery. It’s a level playing field. Everyone is a respected, important member of the team.”

Following surgery, bypass patients get one-on-one nursing care for 12 to 24 hours.

“We remain at the bedside with the patient monitoring his or her recovery,” says Loehr. “I believe that extra touch of highly personalized care is key to our success and makes a huge difference for patients and their families.”

Dr. Krahnert agrees. “I can’t say enough positive things about my colleagues,” he says. “We work as a team. We communicate well, and our decisions about care are always based on what is best for the patient. It is a privilege to work with a group of such welltrained, compassionate, caring people.”

Solomon Bridger's heart-care team at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital includes John Krahnert, M.D., (center), the cardiothoracic surgeon who performed the hospital’s first and 5,000th heart bypass procedure.

A Foundation for the future

You probably already know that the team caring for heart patients at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital includes a variety of highly qualified medical professionals ranging from surgeons and nurses to rehabilitation specialists. You may even realize that in addition to caring for those dealing with heart disease, the FirstHealth team actively works to help communities and individuals understand how to improve heart health and prevent future problems.

What you might be surprised to learn, however, is that one of the key players on the team is you.

As a not-for-profit health system, FirstHealth is essentially owned by the patients it serves. It relies on the support of the community—not only to ensure that patients receive the best possible care now, but also to ensure that this happens for many years to come.

Choosing FirstHealth for medical care is just part of the equation. The community’s support of the Foundation of FirstHealth directly enhances existing services, such as the heart program, and influences future growth and development.

During its 17-year history, the heart program at FirstHealth has achieved unprecedented success. Thanks in part to generous donations from caring residents of the communities it serves, the Foundation has furthered that success through allocations to purchase equipment and provide continuing education for staff members.

“The heart team and the Foundation have always had a special relationship,” says John Krahnert, M.D. “The equipment used before, during and after surgery is some of the most technologically advanced in the medical field. Through the years, the generosity of donors to our Foundation has allowed us to stay on the cutting edge. It has played a significant role in our success.”

In fact, the first Moore Regional Hospital Foundation CARE (Clinical, Advocacy, Resources and Education) Fund was the Heart CARE Fund. It was established in 1991 with a $10,000 gift from the Donald and Elizabeth Cooke Foundation.

At Dr. Krahnert’s recommendation, the gift was used to begin an endowment to provide continuing education for one or two nurses each year. Since that time, other community members have supported the effort and an average of 10 CVT and CCU nurses receive scholarships annually.

“The heart program has benefited from the Foundation,” says Kathleen Westover, president of the Foundation of FirstHealth, “but it is equally true that the Foundation benefits from the heart program. Dr. Krahnert and members of the heart team are actively involved in the community. They have an eye on the future and understand that community support is essential to their success. They work to educate and build support side by side with our Foundation. When physicians, administration, staff and the community come together, the possibilities are limitless.”