Quick Clinic visit saves local man from potential heart attack
By Cheryl Reid-Simons
A long wait to get an appointment can be annoying. But for Enumclaw’s Blane Takamine, it could have been fatal. The Enumclaw resident credits Pulse Heart Institute Quick Clinics for saving time — and his life.
The trouble started as he drove his frozen-foods delivery truck the day before Thanksgiving.
“I was in Hobart of all places when I started to get a little bit of a heart flutter,” he recalls. “I just didn’t feel right, so I stopped and called 911 because I didn’t want to drive and have something happen.”
Medic One transported him to MultiCare Auburn Medical Center with a blood pressure of 200/110 and a pulse rate of 110–120.
Doctors got his heart stabilized within just a few hours and agreed to release him with a referral to an Auburn cardiologist so he could spend the holiday at home. First he tried to make an appointment with a cardiologist closer to home, in Enumclaw.
“They couldn’t see me until the middle of January,” Takamine says.
He called to make an appointment with the Auburn cardiologist, who could schedule him late the following week. Still not soon enough. So he reconnected with the emergency department, which referred him to a Pulse Heart Institute Quick Clinic designed to quickly assess cardiac patients.
Just a few days later, he was at the Pulse Heart Institute in Puyallup for a “Quick Clinic” appointment with cardiologist Dr. Chris Wolfe. A stress test showed worrying results and a catheterization procedure the following day determined his left anterior descending artery to be 99 percent blocked.
“They didn’t even let me go home,” Takamine says.
He was immediately transported to MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital with bypass surgery scheduled the next day. A blockage in the LAD artery is particularly worrisome, Takamine says.
“The doctor told me ‘They call it the widow maker for a reason,’” he says.
Quick access for cardiac patients who need it
Today, Takamine is out of the hospital and back to work.
“I got lucky,” he says. “I didn’t have a heart attack.”
But without the quick intervention and access to testing, his luck could have very well run out.
That’s the idea behind the Pulse Heart Institute Quick Clinics, explains Holly Burke, Director of the Pulse Heart Institute and Clinical Innovation. She credits Needham Ward, MD, for pushing for the program.
“He’d been wanting something like this for years,” Burke says. “Quick access for cardiac patients seen in the emergency room.”
Typically, emergency physicians can stabilize cardiac patients, but they aren’t equipped to conduct the next-level kind of testing those patients need. Emergency physicians sometimes had to admit patients who didn’t really need to be in the hospital because that’s the only way to ensure they would get a timely cardiac evaluation.
But if stable patients can be seen at a cardiology clinic within 72 hours, emergency physicians feel more comfortable discharging them, Burke says. Likewise, patients who have been admitted to the hospital after a heart attack are much less likely to be readmitted if they are seen in a cardiology clinic within a week.
“So we are no longer admitting patients that didn’t need to be admitted and we are successfully transitioning patients from in-patient care,” she says.
Addressing a shortage of cardiologists, long waits
Since opening the Quick Clinics last May, more than 2,000 patients have accessed them for speedy and safe evaluation.
“We have Quick Clinics in all of the markets we serve and it’s been fabulous,” Burke says.
Most patients at the Quick Clinics will see an ARNP who does a full assessment of their risks and orders any lab work or tests needed. A cardiologist rotates between the clinics.
The Quick Clinics address a shortage of cardiologists that otherwise leave new patients waiting at least six weeks to get in. Burke describes the Quick Clinic as a triage center to help determine which cases, like Takamine’s, simply can’t wait a few weeks, and a transition center to help patients after hospitalization so they can be seen before their primary cardiologist can fit them in.
For patients like Takamine, the Quick Clinics have been a godsend.
“My experience with the doctors, nurses, technicians, facility, even the food was good,” he raves. “I’m very thankful for everything.”