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LARSON: Getting to the heart of hospital history in Gwinnett

I was eight months pregnant when I moved to Lilburn in 1981. I'd already arranged to deliver 40 minutes away at Northside Hospital, aka the Baby Factory, but that was OK. Neighbors told me no one has babies in Gwinnett anyway. I discovered 17 months later that statistic had changed a bit. At what was then known as Gwinnett Community Hospital in Snellville, my youngest son was one of the three babies per month born at that facility. We were treated like celebrities.

Over the years, the rule seemed to be that Gwinnett hospitals were OK for minor fixer-uppers, but for anything serious, you had to go to the next county. In 1989, I inadvertently tested that theory and for me it turned out to be true. On Halloween morning, I fell through the trap door in our attic and landed on my left foot, splitting it open on impact. I hopped to the phone and called 911. When the EMTs arrived, I was too wrapped up in my trauma to ask where they were taking me.

I spent 10 hours in the emergency room of what was then Humana Hospital, where they eventually slowed down the bleeding. They attached a test tube to my leg to catch the uncontrollable drips and sent me home. For a permanent fix, which included three titanium plates, 12 screws and the reattachment of two arteries, I had to go to DeKalb County.

Fast forward to 2009 and yes, medical care in Gwinnett has come a long way. In June, my husband was feeling extreme pain. A Norwegian complaining of pain is not something to be taken lightly, so I drove him to the closest hospital, Emory Eastside. Within minutes, the doctors diagnosed a gall bladder problem. Dr. Hisa Yamaguchi performed emergency surgery and we were both touched by the personal care from the hospital staff.

In November, my husband again needed emergency care due to a horrendous yard accident. The EMT said we had to go to Gwinnett Medical Center for trauma care.

Dr. Barry Renz treated his overall trauma and Dr. Sandeep Pathak sewed his forehead back together. We were thankful such wonderful care was available right here at home.

But before any of this took place, while my husband was in the ER, a lady named Sandra walked me down the hall to a little room with a phone and a computer. She brought me some hot tea and crackers and appeared to be watching out for my every move. I didn't realize until later that even though my husband was the one who had the life-threatening accident, she was treating me for a trauma of my own.

And now, speaking of trauma, the latest greatest news is that open-heart surgery is on its way.

Mark Mullin, Director of Planning, Gwinnett Health System said, "We are energized about our ability to offer open-heart surgery services at the Gwinnett Medical Center. Due to the significant support offered by so many, including our medical staff, our associates, residents and the business community, we will now be offering this important cardiac service by late 2011.

"The community support continues, as we have recently reached the $6 million level in fundraising gifts for our open heart campaign. As we begin construction in 2010, we will move one step closer to offering critically important cardiac services to the residents of Gwinnett County."

I hope I never need it, but it's nice to know if I ever do, I don't have to leave the county.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.