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HMC performs its first coronary angioplasty procedure

Philip Stonecipher, of San Antonio, Texas, said he is back on his feet, after recent surgery at Henry Medical Center (HMC), for a condition which could have threatened his life.

"I'm ready to go back to work," said Stonecipher, who is stationed at a medical command at Fort Gillem. "I'm going to take it easy for another week, and then, I should be good to go."

The U.S. Army reservist was the first patient to undergo a coronary angioplasty procedure at HMC. Stonecipher said his 40-minute surgery, on Feb. 28, almost did not happen.

"I was very lucky," he said. "The hospital had been approved to do stents on March 1, but they got special permission to do my stent, because I had a 99 percent blockage. I wasn't stable enough for them to move me all the way across the country to get it done."

Stonecipher had arrived at HMC's Emergency Department last month, believing he had, or was having, a heart attack, according to the hospital's public relations specialist, Michelle Nunnally.

"Cardiologist Muthusamy Sekar, M.D., determined that Stonecipher would need to undergo coronary angioplasty," Nunnally said. "Angioplasty is a common medical procedure, that can also improve symptoms of coronary heart disease, such as angina, chest pain or discomfort, and shortness of breath, reduce damage to the heart muscle caused a heart attack –– and reduce the risk of death in some patients."

Stonecipher, who was awake for the operation, is married, and has six grown children. He said that following the surgery, the military made arrangements for his recuperation from the surgery. "I was on convalescent leave, so that I could fly to my wife, and so that she could see that I was fine," he said.

Nunnally added that the hospital spent the past six months developing its coronary angioplasty program, in collaboration with the Piedmont Heart Institute. "Program development included training staff, implementing policies and protocols and conducting simulated angioplasty procedures," Nunnally said.

HMC's Interim Director of Cardiovascular Services Roddy Calicott was a member of a four-person team that operated on Stonecipher. Calicott described angioplasty as a "simple" procedure.

"We put a wire across the blockage, that we can put other devices through," Calicott said. "A stent is put over the wire, across the blockage, and blown up with a balloon. The stent stays there, to keep the artery open."

He added that the angioplasty program allows HMC to provide more services for the community. "It goes along with our mission to provide high-quality care, close to home," Calicott said.