Mary and J.C. Wall make a one-hour drive from Angleton to Galveston every three months for a standing appointment with Dr. Megan Berman at UTMB. They’ve been UTMB patients for 15 years. The doctor sees both of them at the same time, in the same room at each of these regular check-ups.
“At our age, you can never be too careful,” said Mary, referring to the frequency of their visits. “We like it that the doctor can take care of both of us at once. It saves time. We’ve been married for 68 years so we’re not shy about any of it,” she says.
Recently, however, when 84-year-old Mary and 91-year-old J.C. showed up for their afternoon appointment at the UTMB Internal Medicine Clinic
, what was supposed to be another routine visit ended with Mary being rushed to the Emergency Room
— thanks to a fast-acting team of UTMB employees.
Medical assistants took both patients’ vital signs. Mary told her medical assistant Brandi Norwood that she was feeling some indigestion and stomach pain.
“Where exactly is the pain?” asked Norwood.
Mary put her hand on her stomach and traced a line upward, ending at her chest.
Norwood left Mary and J.C. in the patient room and told nurse Terri Bryan about Mary’s chest pain. Norwood also reported that Mary’s blood pressure was higher than usual. Bryan grabbed the portable EKG machine and calmly rolled it into the room where Mary and J.C. were waiting.
“We just want to check and make sure everything is OK with your heart since you said you’re having chest pain,” Bryan told Mary as she attached the EKG monitors to Mary’s body.
“Everything happened so fast after that, I was in a state of shock,” said J.C., who watched Bryan’s face grow very serious as all three of them watched the EKG reading spike before their eyes.
“The nurse just tore out of the room,” said J.C. “Then everything started happening.”
Bryan rushed to Berman, who was seeing a different patient, to show her the EKG reading.
Berman took one look and confirmed what Bryan already knew — Mary was having a massive heart attack. Bryan quickly enlisted the help of nurse Linda Salazar to administer aspirin, nitroglycerin and oxygen while Berman called Emergency Medical Services for an ambulance.
Then Berman and Bryan rushed to Mary’s side. Everybody in the room kept calm and tried to help Mary and J.C. do the same while they waited for EMS. Nurse Liz Leigh held down the fort with all the other patients in the office while the emergency unfolded.
“We took the patient’s vitals again right before EMS got here and could see that the aspirin and nitro were getting things stabilized,” said Salazar. “The protocols were working. She was stable and conscious as EMS got her into the ambulance.”
Mary was in UTMB’s Emergency Room within 30 minutes of having her vital signs initially taken by Norwood. She was rushed into surgery and a stent was placed to alleviate the blockage.
“It was a great example of teamwork that saved her life,” said Berman.
Two days later, Mary was resting comfortably with her husband by her side in UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital. They were hoping to get word that Mary could go home soon. She ended up being released a week after the day of her surgery.
J.C. told how the cardiologist Dr. Umamahesh Rangasetty
had taken the time to show him a video of Mary’s surgery and explain exactly what they had done while J.C. watched it all on the doctor’s computer screen.
“He was really some doctor to take the time to do that for me,” said J.C. “When we finished watching it, we walked out of his office down the hall with our arms around each other. It was really something.”
“We love this hospital,” said J.C. “People really take care of us here.”