Beth Hagan currently lives away from home, as she waits on the heart transplant that will give her a new lease on life. But without the quick thinking and thorough preparation of Lonesome Pine Hospital’s emergency department, she might not have ever had the chance.
I am currently living away from home in Round Hill, Virginia, while I wait on a heart transplant.
My story began one day in May 2011, when I experienced shortness of breath and went to the emergency department at Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap. From there, I was transferred to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tennessee. I was greeted by three smiling faces of young nurses from Big Stone Gap and who went to the high school in our community. I was taken very good care of while there by Dr. Harrison Turner and the rest of the medical staff.
I was treated through the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute, and a pacemaker was placed in August 2011. Other testing revealed that I probably was suffering from cardiac sarcoidosis, along with congestive heart failure. My care was managed well through Wellmont and their cardiac team, until July 2013, when tests showed that my heart function was worsening and I was told to start researching transplant centers, because they recommended a heart transplant.
This news was very overwhelming to me, but my husband, John, began the research and we decided to come to INOVA Transplant Center in Fairfax, Virginia. We traveled the 7+ hours to Fairfax in October 2013, and the decision was made that I was eligible for a heart transplant.
However, because of the shortage of organs, the first phase of this would be for me to be implanted with a Left Ventricular Arterial Device (LVAD). This device would help my heart pump the necessary blood throughout my body while I waited for a heart.
My biggest fear or worry was what would happen to me after the LVAD was placed. Since we lived in Big Stone Gap, the closest transplant center at the time was in Louisville, Kentucky. It was very nerve-wracking to come back to Big Stone Gap after being in Northern Virginia for seven weeks. I missed home, and certainly wanted to come home, but I worried about what would happen if the LVAD failed.
My husband made contact with Kellie Carter at Lonesome Pine and gave her a heads up that we would be coming home, so she took care of coordinating all I would need in the event of an emergency. We met with Kellie when I was able to come home and she copied my cardiac and LVAD notebook so they would have the information available in the emergency department if needed.
I was required to have weekly blood work done to monitor my Coumadin levels and INR. I was able to go into the hospital lab and the staff members there were so good to me. They would make the necessary blood draw and fax the results timely to INOVA so they could make the necessary adjustments to my medications.
I had a couple of events once I was home that required me to go into the emergency department to Lonesome Pine, and I was so impressed with the care I received. I'd been a patient at the hospital before and had a good experience, but this was different.
The staff in the emergency department had my "book" out and got the VAD Team at INOVA on the phone, and they took care of the issues at hand like pros. The team at INOVA were so impressed with the staff at our small rural hospital and raved about their competency at my next clinic appointment.
I had a couple of other minor incidents that required the assistance of Lonesome Pine and all were handled in the same competent and professional manner. The nursing staff was so efficient and demonstrated calm, caring medical treatment every time I had to go there.
The "biggie" happened on July 2, 2014, when I realized I was passing a large amount of blood and was directed to go to the emergency department after checking in my team at INOVA. Again, once the staff at Lonesome Pine got me settled, they got the VAD team at INOVA on the phone and proceeded to complete the tests that were ordered and prepare a plan. INOVA felt like I was experiencing symptoms of a blood clot in the LVAD and would need to be transported by air to their facility in Fairfax.
WellmontOne Air Transport coordinated a fixed-wing air ambulance to transport me from their facility to INOVA. This was no small feat, but the folks at Lonesome Pine handled it like the champions they are. I was flown to INOVA where I was admitted and my LVAD replaced on July 11, 2014. I am still residing in the Northern Virginia area with my brother in law while I wait on my new heart.
Once I receive my new heart, I will return home to Big Stone Gap and once again, Lonesome Pine Hospital will be my small rural hospital, and I will trust them with my health care, as I have for over 26 years. We are so fortunate to have this hospital in our town and I am proud of the good service and medical care they provide our region.
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