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Updated Dec 30, 2013 - 7:09 am

Patient is living proof of local hospital's quick care

Thom Miller (center), his wife Mary Ann and his physician, Alan Tenaglia talk amongst themselves in the emergency room where Miller was given an angioplasty to reopen an artery that was 100 percent blocked and cutting off blood flow to a portion of his heart. (KTAR photo/Mark Remillard)

A Scottsdale hospital is being commended for its excellent care during heart attacks, and one patient is living proof.

Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center on East Shea Boulevard near Loop 101 was given the 2013 Showcase in Excellence Award by the Southwest Alliance for Excellence, due to the hospital's quick response in emergency cardiac situations.

The hospital recently revamped the way it operates during heart attacks and as a result are consistently ahead of national standards, said Cardiologist Alan Tenaglia.

The national standard is 90 minutes from "door to balloon," or, from when a patient enters an emergency room to when a blocked artery in a heart should be opened. "The main reason we won the award is the processes that we put into place to open up these arteries extremely quickly," Tenaglia said.

Tenaglia said Scottsdale Healthcare is not only always below the national standard, but is setting a new bar for performance.

"Sixty is the new 90," he said. "We are 100 percent less than 90 minutes and we're getting more than half the time less than 60."

When an artery is blocked, the portion of the heart that the artery supplies can no longer receive blood, which can cause damage very quickly, Tenaglia said. So it's important to reopen arteries as soon as possible.

"The studies have shown it definitively improves the return of heart function and it improves mortality and survival for patients," Tenaglia said.

A recent example of Scottsdale Healthcare's fast action in cardiac emergencies occurred the day after Thanksgiving, when 65-year-old Thom Miller was brought through the hospital doors in dire need of care.

Miller, who has had an implanted defibrillator since 2000, was awoken that morning after what he thought was indigestion.

"I went out to the kitchen to get some water, maybe a Pepto and boom! I get this feeling - this wave of, I'm going to pass out here,'" he said.

Miller said he felt a shock run up and down his body. In 13 years of having his implanted defibrillator it was the first time he had ever felt it go off. Nevertheless, he shrugged it off assuming it was to his holiday over indulgence.

But when another shock came around 8:30 a.m., Miller said he and his wife, Mary Ann, knew something was wrong. "It's a sensation that goes through the whole body, down to the toes, out to the fingertips," he said.

After the second shock Mary Ann took him to the hospital where he was shocked a third time as they approached the emergency room.

"He's in my arms and they came running around to get him," Mary Ann said.

Miller, who remained conscious during the whole ordeal, said he was quickly rushed into surgery.

"It didn't take long for them to have me in an ER, prepped and by 10 o'clock I was on a table," he said.

In the emergency room, doctors gave Miller an angioplasty to clear one artery that was completely blocked and examined two others that were about 60 percent obstructed, Miller said.

"They doubled stinted the artery that was 100 percent occluded," he said.

Tenaglia, who was Miller's physician, said from time Miller had reached the emergency room, to when his blood flow was restored took less an hour.

"The process from when he first arrived in the emergency room to when he got here and the artery was actually opened up was only 57 minutes, which is fantastic," he said.

Having survived the ordeal, Miller now encourages people to heed his warning: if you think something might be wrong, go to the hospital, don't wait and make a mistake.

"Go into the hospital, go into Scottsdale Healthcare Shea, you'll find people there that'll be willing to do everything they need to prove that you either do have acid reflux, or you don't," he said. "And if you don't, you'll be well tended, if you do, you'll be well tended. No risk."

About the Author

A southern California native, Mark Remillard began working in radio in 2010 while in community college as a host of late night and weekend programming for publicly supported 88.5 FM KSBR. While working through college, Mark also interned for the Bill Handel Radio Program at Los Angeles' KFI AM640, where he began his work in journalism. Mark moved to Arizona in August 2012 to finish his bachelor's degree at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and graduated in August 2014. Mark began working as a reporter for KTAR in November 2012.


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