Special to The Ely Times

The most remote hospital in the continental United States recently got an impressive and high tech upgrade that is revolutionizing cardiac care in White Pine County.  For the past 10+ years cardiology in Ely consisted of a once a month clinic and if any intervention was required patients then had to travel at least 460 miles round trip for treatment.  Two years ago a new model for heart care was presented to WBRH consisting of a Cardiac Cath Lab to bring physicians and specialty staff directly to the patients here in Ely. That Cath Lab made its WBRH debut this past February. 

Now the White Pine County area has a cardiology clinic at WBRH 2 days a week with Rocky (Jones) Bybee working directly with cardiologists, and coronary interventionists 2 to 4 days a month.  These staff cardiologists are coming in from Las Vegas, Salt Lake, and as far as Little Rock Arkansas, bringing 10 to 15 years of experience in coronary intervention.  Additional WBRH physician staff on site consists of Dr. Rodney Badger and Dr. Zia Khan, both physicians are board certified Interventional Cardiologists with 15 years of experience. 

Patients here now receive the same advanced cardiac treatments that they would get in any major urban center with the luxury of being able to stay in White Pine. With this new Cath Lab, WBRH is treating complex cardiac cases such as coronary interventions – heart stents, heart angioplasty, heart arthrectomy, pacemakers, electrophysiology, and cardiac surgical clearance. 

Outside of the heart, the Cath Lab is treating peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which refers to diseases of the blood vessels located outside the heart and brain most often caused by a buildup of cholesterol deposits in the arteries. The best way for you to prevent PAD is by taking part in daily physical activity. 

If you have symptoms including: leg pain while walking, frequent painful cramping of the legs, swelling of the legs, and wounds on feet or legs that will not heal, you may be at risk of arterial disease.  Treatments range from angioplasty to stents to arthrectomy, all of which can now be done right here in Ely.  WBRH is 95% effective in treating PAD which tremendously improves quality of life. The Cath Lab will also treat deep venous disease and superficial venous disease. Similar to the arteries the veins can become blocked resulting in pain and discomfort.  

Patients with risk factors can see their primary care physician or arrange to see Rocky Bybee for an initial work up. Mrs. Bybee coordinates with cardiologists if any diagnostic testing is required ie: ABI, EKG, EchoCardiogram, stress test, etc. The cardiologists will then determine what the next steps are. A typical next step is an angiogram which shows all the vessels in the heart and legs and is 100 percent conclusive. If there is disease, about 90% of the cases can be treated here locally.

Since February approximately 60 patients have seen tremendous success in the Cath Lab.  This new service has resulted in prolonged life, renewed health, and several patients avoiding death or dismemberment because of the work done locally. A few patients were scheduled for amputations due to loss of blood flow to their legs and feet, but thanks to the work of direct interventionists here at WBRH’s new Cath Lab, doctors restored blood flow and saved the limbs. 

As advanced as the new technology may be, patient care starts with you first.  See a doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms such as high blood pressure, leg pain while walking, painful leg cramping, shortness of breath, chest pain, wounds that do not heal, pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back. Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain, cold sweat. sudden or lingering fatigue, lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.  

After a grant from the Pennington Foundation the new Cath Lab at WBRH patients are now able to get advanced and profoundly intricate cardiac care locally.  This is one more example of how our local hospital is continuously elevating the standard of care and raising the bar for health and life expectancy in the rural White Pine community.