Health Care

Life-Saving Emergency Care When Minutes Matter

Todd and Neil Keener

When Dr. Todd Keener suspected his father was having a heart attack, he only had to drive eight miles from their family’s cattle farm to AdventHealth Murray for emergency treatment.

“We have a hospital here that was in our community, which is a blessing because Chatsworth is a small community, and in this day and time, a lot of small communities are losing their hospitals,” said Keener, a veterinarian in Chatsworth.

Keener noticed his 81-year-old father, Neil, was struggling to get dressed one morning when he picked him up to check on their Angus cattle.

“He had been having problems with gout in his wrist and the flare-ups can be pretty debilitating for him, so I didn’t think a whole lot about it; but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Is something else going on?’” he said.

The pair set out for their pasture in Keener’s truck.

“As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, he said, ‘My arm is hurting,’” Keener said. “We pulled up to the gate going into our pastures, and within a minute, he got really nauseous, and I started thinking he may be having a heart attack. A minute or two later, he started having chest pains.”

Keener quickly decided to drive directly to the hospital, rather than call 911 and wait for an ambulance.

“We’re probably seven to eight miles from the hospital,” he said. “I already had him in the vehicle, and I knew I could have him at the hospital by the time the ambulance could get to us.”

It was Labor Day weekend, and Keener said they didn’t have to wait at all when they arrived at the AdventHealth Murray Emergency Department.

“They took him right back to the exam room, and I was able to go with him,” he said. “They put him in triage and hooked him up to an EKG.”

The EKG confirmed the heart attack, and the Emergency Department team administered clot-busting medications to stabilize Keener’s father until he could be airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for surgery.

“They hooked him up to IVs and told him what was going on and what needed to be done,” Keener said. “They were very informative, and they were great. He had lots of attention — all the attention that he needed.”

Keener appreciated the Emergency Department team letting him stay with his father during the 30 to 40 minutes they were there.

“That was a blessing,” he said. “When he got on the helicopter, I didn’t know if that would be the last time I would see him. They also let my wife come back there with him before they airlifted him out. It was important to us, and we appreciated it.”

Keener drove to Erlanger, where his father was already undergoing treatment by the time he arrived.

“When he got to Erlanger, they immediately took him back to the cath lab,” he said. “He had a 90 percent blockage of his main coronary artery, which they call ‘the widow-maker.’”

The surgeon successfully placed a stent to keep the artery open, and his father was able to come home after a few days.

Keener said AdventHealth’s commitment to providing health care to the residents of Murray County, along with its partnership with Erlanger, made a “life or death” difference in his father’s care.

“If they would have had to wait and take him to a hospital in a neighboring town 20 to 30 minutes away by ambulance, he could have died on the way to the hospital,” he said.

A helicopter airlift between Erlanger and AdventHealth Murray typically takes 15 minutes.

Keener said he brought his father back to AdventHealth Murray a week or two after the stent placement for treatment of a gout flareup.

“Again, it was such a blessing we didn’t have to go somewhere else and could get him into the hospital quickly,” he said. “When you have a loved one in the hospital and people are having to work and try to go check on their family member when they’re in the hospital, it’s nice to have them in the hospital right there so you don’t have to drive 30 to 40 minutes to see your loved one.”

AdventHealth Murray isn’t as large as other hospitals in the region, but Keener believes the smaller size allows for higher staff-to-patient ratios, which contributes to a better quality of care, especially when the nurses, staff and physicians are familiar faces to many of the patients they’re treating.

“When they know you, they’re going to care about you more,” he said. “It helps the family when you’re in there and you can see a familiar face. It eases the stress.” Keener said AdventHealth Murray has managed his father’s follow-up care, as well.

“He’s doing great and is out walking, and he still goes to the farm every day that he feels like going,” Keener said. “He’s probably in better shape now than he was before he went to the hospital.”

For more information on services at AdventHealth Murray, please call 706-695-4564.

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