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GMC performs 500th angioplasty ahead of schedule

Special Photo Carey Merritt (center left) was the 500th recipient of a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) since Gwinnett Medical Center started offering the procedure in March. Original projections estimated GMC would perform 600 of the procedures in its first year, a number that has now shifted to about 900.

Special Photo Carey Merritt (center left) was the 500th recipient of a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) since Gwinnett Medical Center started offering the procedure in March. Original projections estimated GMC would perform 600 of the procedures in its first year, a number that has now shifted to about 900.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett Medical Center recently performed its 500th angioplasty and stenting procedure, putting one of the hospital's precursors to full open-heart services far ahead of original projections.

Formally called a percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, GMC began offering the mostly emergency service in March. Initial projections estimated the hospital would perform about 600 PCIs in its first year. After hitting the 500 mark only seven months in, that estimate has now shifted to about 900.

"GMC has combined experienced interventional cardiologists and (catheterization) lab professionals who come from high-volume facilities," said Dr. Jim John, one of those interventional cardiologists. "Such an equation allows us to accommodate high volumes of patients and complex cases."

It's safe to say few PCI patients actually expect to wind up at Gwinnett Medical Center -- but the 500th patient especially did not.

Sixty-nine-year-old Carey Merritt lives in the rural Georgia town of Ivey, located about halfway between Milledgeville and Macon. A carpenter, Merritt was spending a few days renovating a bathroom in his sister's Loganville home when he woke in the middle of the night with a heart attack.

"I thought I wasn't going to make it," Merritt said. "I stumbled into the living room and my sister called 911."

After he was transported by ambulance to GMC, Dr. Sean Delaney and his staff discovered Merritt had major blockages in all three of his major coronary arteries. Dr. Delaney performed the initial PCI and later a second one. After a few days, John performed a third.

"Placement of these stents helped Mr. Merritt avoid having to have bypass surgery," John said.

Living in a rural area, Merritt is the first to admit he may not have made it if he hadn't been in Gwinnett.

"If I'd been at home by myself in Ivey, I probably would have died in the house," he said. "It was a good thing I was at my sister's. I was in the right place at the right time."

Gwinnett Medical Center is on schedule to officially open its Heart & Vascular Center and begin offering a full suite of open-heart services in January, eliminating Gwinnett's title as the nation's largest county without such a facility.