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October 13, 2014

Sam Mason didn’t think he was having a heart attack. The 64 year-old Manzanita resident thought that he was experiencing arrhythmia. “My heart was beating erratically,” he said: “pump, pump, pump, Ka-Chung. I could literally feel my rib cage move from left to right. I thought, this isn’t right.”

Sam Mason of Manzanita and Mark Hart, MDSam was home alone at the time, and it didn’t occur to him to call 911. “There was a heaviness in my chest,” he said, “but it didn’t hurt much.”  So Sam, a life-long athlete, decided to exercise. “I did some gentle rowing on my rowing machine,” he said. “After that my heart kind of settled down.”

The next morning, March 26, 2014 Sam went to the Manzanita Primary and Specialty Care Clinic at the urging of his boss. Sam is the corporate environmental manager at Tillamook County Creamery Association. “I called my boss and told him I was going to stop at the doctor’s office on my way to work. When I described my symptoms, he told me to go to the urgent care clinic in Manzanita; he figured that closer to home was better. He didn’t want me to drive to Tillamook until someone checked me out.”

That was excellent advice. Sam saw Rob Soans, Physician Assistant (PA) at the clinic in Manzanita. “Rob listened to me, and he said, ‘it sounds like there might be something going on with your heart.’ He gave me an EKG and a blood test.”

The blood test was to measure Sam’s troponin levels. Troponins are proteins which are released into the blood when the heart muscle has been damaged, such as in a heart attack. The more damage there is to the heart, the greater the amount of troponin there will be in the blood. Normal troponin levels are so low as to be undetectable. Sam’s troponin levels were high, indicating that he had experienced a heart attack the day before.

Team approach provides seamless care

While Sam Mason awaited his EKG and troponin blood test results at the clinic in Manzanita, Rob Soans called NW Regional Heart and Vascular cardiologist, Mark Hart, MD. Tillamook Regional Medical Center and its clinics on the coast operate in partnership with NW Regional Heart and Vascular to provide world class cardiac services to our patients in Tillamook and Lincoln Counties. Dr. Hart assessed the results of Sam’s EKG and his troponin levels by phone and told Rob to transport Sam by ambulance to Adventist Medical Center (AMC) in Portland.

“I thought they were going to take me to the hospital in Tillamook,” said Sam. “But Rob got Dr. Hart on the phone and he took a look at my results and decided to send me straight to Portland.”

Sam was transported by Tillamook Regional Medical Center Ambulance Service, which operates a station in Manzanita. Ninety-five minutes later Sam was being checked in to the cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab) at AMC-Portland where he had a coronary angioplasty; that’s where a catheter is threaded through the femoral artery and guided into the heart. A special dye is injected via the catheter which enables cardiologists to observe the heart and any blockages through x-ray imaging. The cardiology team discovered that Sam’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery in his heart was 99 percent occluded. This condition is known as a “widow maker.”

What is a Widow Maker?

“The good news is that I didn’t wake up dead.”

The LAD supplies blood to the entire front wall of the heart and much of the side wall. It is the main artery down the front of the heart. When it is totally blocked or has a critical blockage at the beginning of the vessel, it is known as the widow maker, (the medical term is proximal LAD lesion) because of the often fatal consequences if the whole front wall of the heart is denied blood and oxygen.

A coronary stent implant was placed in Sam’s occluded LAD artery following his angioplasty. A stent is a small, wire mesh tube about the size of a ballpoint pen spring. The stent is inserted to help keep the artery open to ensure blood flow in the heart.

Sam said, “I almost didn’t go to the doctor that morning because I felt better. I knew that something unusual had happened with my heart, but it didn’t really hurt.” Sam never dreamed that he’d experienced a widow maker heart attack or that he had a 99 percent blockage in his heart. Had he not gone to the clinic that morning and received expert care he very likely would have experienced a second major heart attack that could have lived up to its name: widow maker.

Sam’s cardiologist, Mark Hart, MD said “This is a great example of the team concept at work.” Dr. Hart is referring to the partnership between Tillamook Regional Medical Center and NW Regional Heart and Vascular and Adventist Medical Center-Portland. “I see patients in Manzanita,” said Dr. Hart, “and Rob Soans and I have prepared for this scenario: a patient comes in to the Manzanita clinic with heart symptoms. Rob gives them and EKG and tests their troponin levels. He calls me with the results and if necessary we transport the patient to AMC-Portland for treatment. We are working together to create an environment where patients get the same treatment wherever they are. Everything worked exactly the way that it should have here. It was seamless coordination.”

The Road to Recovery

Sam Mason and Cardiac Rehab exercise physiologist Sherrie EvensonSam has committed himself to following instructions. He is taking his medications, keeping his appointments, going to cardiac education classes and he has changed the way he eats. He’s trying to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and he’s given up coffee and sugary drinks. He’s lost 10 pounds and he is participating in the cardiac rehabilitation program at AMC-Portland.

Sam drives from Tillamook to Portland weekly to work out under the watchful care of exercise physiologists. Sam and his fellow cardiac patients wear cardiac monitors as they exercise and the rehab staff guide them to exert themselves within safe bounds while monitoring the stress on their hearts. For Sam, a lifelong athlete who has always enjoyed a strenuous workout, the challenge is to slow down. He’s supposed to keep his heart rate under 115, and just work to the point of mild exertion. He feels like he’s barely moving. The staff call to him, “Dial it back, Sam.” He smiles and tries to negotiate an intermediate speed. They laugh.

For Sherrie Evenson, exercise physiologist, Sam is a model patient. “I’ve been so impressed with him,” she said. “I’m impressed that he comes all this way. It says a lot about his dedication to his health that he drives here from Tillamook. And it makes a huge difference that he is a lifetime exerciser. He has a good foundation for health. And he’s just so nice. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

“This has been good for me,” said Sam of cardiac rehab. “Based on my experience here I know how far I can push myself.” Sam recently had the opportunity to push himself when he went to Italy with his wife, Cindy, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. “We went on some hike and uphill climbs in Italy. I was able to pace myself based upon the knowledge that I’ve gained here in rehab.”

It was never far from Sam’s mind how close he came to not surviving to celebrate 40 years of marriage. The phrase “widow maker” is haunting. “It would have been so hard for my wife,” Sam said about the possibility that he might have died of a heart attack. “That’s why it’s so important to me that I received excellent, quality care.”

March 27, 2014

The online vascular disease assessment offered by Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular is proving to be a valuable tool for the Northwest. Since launching in January of 2014 hundreds of individuals have completed the brief assessment that helps identify their risk for vascular disease. The assessment is a free tool developed by the providers at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular with the goal of improving vascular health in the communities we serve.

Vascular disease can lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Gone undetected it can also result in loss of mobility and even the loss of a limb. Nearly 12 million Americans are affected by this disease. The good news is that vascular disease can largely be predicted and prevented. 

We encourage you to take our vascular disease assessment and follow up with your doctor if the tool shows that you are at high-risk.

Watch Mike discuss the assessment and his results below and learn how the assessment could help you.

January 9, 2014

Delicious Fair of the HeartSunday, Feb. 23, 1 to 3 p.m.
Adventist Medical Center
Amphitheater, 10123 SE Market St., Portland

This event will feature award-winning chef Kirk Iverson. Sample delicious foods and learn how to prepare delectable, heart-healthy recipes.

Call 503-468-5121 to register.

December 20, 2013

Information sessions: Tuesday, Jan. 21, and Thursday, Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m., Adventist Medical Center, Education Center A

CHIP program at Adventist Health

Have you ever wanted to get better control of your health and challenging medical conditions? There is hope! The Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) is a scientifically proven lifestyle intervention program that can help prevent, arrest and even reverse many of today’s common diseases. For more than 50,000 graduates, CHIP has provided the education, motivation and support that have led to amazing improvements in health and overall well-being. CHIP may be able to help you too!

Our next program begins on Tuesday, Feb. 11 (fee required), so call 503-256-4000, and sign up to attend one of our FREE CHIP information sessions.

November 13, 2013

Thursday, November 21: A Day to Start to Stop Smoking—For you, a friend or a family member—This is the day.

Each year, the American Cancer Society holds the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. This year’s date is November 21st.  Help yourself, help a friend, help someone in your family to take the first step.  Make Thursday, November 21st, a day to stop smoking for one day. Make it the day to start to stop and to keep that pledge for each day following, one day at a time, for life—for your life.

Stop and take a breath, a breath of fresh air, a breath of life. Do it for your heart. Do it for your lungs. Do it for you. Every breath you take delivers life-giving oxygen to your lungs, to your heart and to every cell of your body. When you smoke, nicotine in cigarettes increases your heart rate and your blood pressure. It causes your heart to work harder. It makes it beg for oxygen. At the same time, carbon monoxide, another ingredient in cigarette smoke, deprives red blood cells of oxygen. Every breath you take with a cigarette in your mouth causes your coronary arteries, your heart muscle’s very own blood supply, to narrow because of nicotine at the very same time there is less oxygen being delivered to your heart muscle. That’s because carbon monoxide has priority seating on red blood cells. It deprives your heart of its primary source of fuel—oxygen.

Smoking is the number one risk factor for coronary artery disease. Did you know that if you smoke your first cigarette within 30-minutes of waking up it’s because you are so addicted that you are having withdrawal symptoms during your sleep? Your number one goal should therefore be to extend 30-minutes to 40-minutes, or 50-minutes or an hour.  Try 24-hours.  Take the first step. Be good to you. Spend one day not smoking. Make that day November 21st, the Great American Smokeout. Stop and think about every breath you take. Each one is precious. When that breath is filtered through a cigarette, it is devastating, debilitating and deadly. Parents, tell your children not to start.  Children, tell your parents to stop. Start with one day. Help them to prepare for the Great American Smokeout.

Take a day out for you. Help a friend. Help a family member. Help someone quit. Plan for it.  Make it your day to start to stop. Take a breath and think about how it feels. Fill your lungs, your heart and each cell of your body with the breath of life. Leave behind the breath of death. Snuff it out. Leave it in the ashtray. Better yet, don’t light it. Try it for a day, one day at a time, for life—for your life.

For more information on the difficult task of quitting, there are many resources available. You can get help from friends, family and smoking cessation programs.  There are nicotine replacements and medications such as Zyban and Chantix. Talk to your doctor and check with your hospital. Here at Adventist Health call 503-261-6661 for information on Stop Smoking Programs. Call the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA1, or the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA.  Some Government Resources include 1-800-QUIT-NOW and

Remember, it doesn’t matter how addicted you are or how long you have smoked, you can stop smoking, one day at a time. Stay strong, stick with it and get whatever support you need. Start to stop on November 21st and keep going, one day at a time.

Yours in fitness,

Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Cardiac Rehabilitation, Adventist Health, Portland, Oregon
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM

Sources: American Cancer Society
The Fagerstrom Scale for Nicotine Addiction

October 11, 2013

On Thursday, October 10, Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular sponsored the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon. This year we put together a photo booth for the event where attendees could have their photo taken with the Go Red dress along with many other red props. The booth was a hit with attendees who were excited to see their photos on the Adventist Medical Center Facebook page

The whole Go Red for Women Luncheon was a great success and a valuable opportunity to learn more about heart disease in women. Take a look at some of the photos below and consider joining us next year!

American Heart Association team at the Go Red for Women Luncheon

Supporting the fight against heart disease in women

Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular photo booth

Supporting the fight against heart disease in women

September 27, 2013

Elva has lived in Tillamook for 30 years and has become an integral part of the small community. 

The doctors and the nurses were outstanding because they were so professional and so caring.

After a nuclear stress test showed that she needed to seek further help, Elva met with Dr. Chelsky at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular in Tillamook and later went to the Portland campus for an angiogram. The angiogram determined that she needed bypass surgery. Dr. Molloy, Elva's heart surgeon, made her feel confident that she would receive the best care and the best possible outcome.

Today, several months after a successful surgery, Elva is back home in Tillamook with more energy for the things she enjoys. 

July 17, 2013

Had a great time—so glad you fixed my heart so I could keep on, keeping on.  Hope & Peace & Love, Joan

You don't see a lot of people celebrating their 80th birthday with a skydive, but that's just what one of our patients did. 

Joan came to Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular from Georgia for mitral valve repair. After discussing her condition with a couple of surgeons she chose to have Dr. Thomas Molloy perform a robotic surgery so that she could get back on her feet more quickly. Today Joan is happy, healthy and clearly enjoying life. 

June 11, 2013

Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular is the finest in the world.

Ed survived a heart attack thanks to quick CPR from his daughter and thought he was making a full recovery. However, 15 months after his heart attack Ed started having heart trouble again. He visited Dr. Bradley Titus at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular in Walla Walla who helped diagnose the problem. Dr. Titus recommended that Ed visit Dr. Thomas Molloy in Portland for heart surgery. After meeting with Dr. Titus and Dr. Molloy and his team, Ed and his wife knew that they were in the right place. 

Thanks to the coordinated care of Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular, Ed was able to receive expert care from a team that he trusted. Today Ed is back on his feet and so grateful for the care he received.

June 4, 2013

While few of us will ever be Olympians, we can all become champions. This fun evening will feature the award-winning film Age of Champions followed by an inspiring discussion with Sherrie Evenson, MS, a registered clinical exercise physiologist with Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular.

Age of Champions is the uplifting story of five competitors who sprint, leap and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics. You’ll meet a 100-year-old tennis champion, an 86-year-old pole vaulter, octogenarian swimmers, and rough-and-tumble basketball grandmothers who tackle the challenges of aging with grace, humor and optimism. It’s a story about the triumph of the human spirit—a story that each of us can enter into as well.

June 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Adventist Medical Center, Education Center A
10123 SE Main St, Portland OR

The session is free, but space is limited. Please call 503-256-4000 for your reservation.

All participants will receive a free elastic exercise band and tips!