Man's health struggle proves worth of local lab

August 27, 2000

Man's health struggle proves worth of local lab

By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

Mixed in with the pictures of Larry Mays' loved ones is a card in his wallet that shows where the stints are in the blood vessels of his heart.

For the past five years, the 55-year-old Boonsboro man has lived with an ailing heart. But he said the treatment he has received from the people at the newly improved cardiac catheterization lab at Washington County Hospital has made the ordeal tolerable.

"The cath lab here is the best I've experienced," May said, having become somewhat of an authority on cardiac catheterization labs in the past five years.

On a recent visit to WCH for a check-up, May said he first experienced problems while returning home from a wedding in Tennessee in 1995.


"I grabbed some luggage and ran up to a second-floor room," May said. "There was this pain in my neck and in my shoulder."

Having had a clear cardiac catheterization two years earlier, May said he figured the pain wasn't being caused by his heart.

Back to work the next Monday at National Geographic where he is a computer programmer/analyst, May ran up the stairs and again experienced tremendous pain.

"I called my wife and then I went to the company nurse, who sent me to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital," May said. "They did tests and told me to see my doctor."

Days later as May was mowing grass at his home, the pains returned and he said he began having trouble breathing.

He said he went inside and rested and then returned to the mowing ... three times before calling his physician, Dr. Pamela Bradford.

"I was given a stress test and began hurting right away," May said. "They did a nuclear scan and then a catheterization."

The 1995 test results were quite different from those found in 1993, May said.

"They found a blockage in the left anterior descending artery."

Sharon Etter, clinical manager of the WCH cardiac cath lab, explained everything to May and his wife, Kay, so they could understand the options. Other staff members added their expertise and an all-important personal touch, he said.

"They really put me at a comfort level," May said.

Referred to the University of Maryland, he chose to undergo an atherectomy, in which large arteries are ground out to remove blockages.

After an overnight stay, he returned home and felt great for a few weeks, but then the pain returned.

"Scar tissue that builds up after the atherectomy is not uncommon," said Dr. Gary Papuchis of May's condition.

So it was back to the University of Maryland where another operation resulted in the placement of two stints, or metal supports, in the ailing blood vessel.

Not withstanding the stints, a single bypass surgery was required in January 1996 at the University of Maryland. Instead of a vein graft from May's leg, though, the surgery rerouted the blood flow through an artery already inside the chest.

Since then, May has returned to WCH for periodic catheterizations and he remains clear.

"We can serve patients much better here now," Papuchis said, noting that more than 700 catheterizations are expected to be done at WCH this year.

Washington County Hospital now has the only completely filmless cath lab in the Baltimore-Washington area, thanks to $1.4 million in renovations that allow images to be stored on computer disks.

The advantages include higher quality images, only half the radiation exposure for the patient and more time for patient-staff interaction, Papuchis said.

For more information on the process, call 301-790-8384.

It may be a rather dubious distinction but

And the 55-year-old Boonsboro man says the new, improved cath lab at Washington County Hospital is second to none.

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