Same-day cardiology clinic saves farmer from ‘widow maker’

Same-day cardiology clinic saves farmer from ‘widow maker’

ralph tighe and his wife
Ralph Tighe of Woodstown, N.J., here with his wife Carol, thought he was experiencing indigestion, but tests Christiana Care's same-day cardiology clinic revealed that he was suffering a heart attack. Quick intervention by his primary care doctor, Kevin Roberts, and cardiologist Andrew Doorey likely saved his life.

It was a Friday afternoon when Ralph Tighe went to Dr. Kevin Roberts’ office asking for something to relieve indigestion. By Friday evening, Tighe was resting comfortably, recovering from an emergency angioplasty at Christiana Care’s new Cardiology Consultants’ same-day clinic.

Tighe thought his discomfort was nothing more than bad indigestion when he went to see Dr. Roberts, his family doctor at Christiana Care Family Medicine at Woodstown Center in Woodstown, N.J. And when Dr. Roberts, who recognized warning signs of a potentially dangerous cardiac problem, recommended that Tighe drive into Delaware for further tests, Tighe resisted.

“I thought it was indigestion, so I tried to talk him out of it,” Tighe recalls with a chuckle.

Cardiologist Andrew J. Doorey, M.D., FACC, was nearing the end of his first day at the same-day clinic when Tighe came in for an exam that afternoon.

“He’s a salt-of-the-earth farmer,” Dr. Doorey recalls fondly. “He’s 73-years-old, and the day before, he had been out repairing a tractor.”

Although Tighe’s EKG results were only minimally abnormal, Dr. Doorey had a gut feeling that the stoic farmer’s symptoms were a red flag. He convinced Tighe to undergo a heart catheterization, which revealed a potentially deadly blockage.

“He had what is called a ‘widow maker’—a very tight blockage in the most important artery,” Dr. Doorey says. “Afterward, blood tests showed that he was already having a heart attack when I first saw him, and probably had been having it all day.”

It’s not uncommon for cardiology patients to fall into a diagnostic “gray zone,” where physicians need to perform a number of tests quickly to determine whether hospital admission is necessary, says Roger Kerzner, M.D., FACC.

“The same-day clinic is a good place to sort that out,” he says. “And if someone needs to go into the hospital, it’s an easy process.”

The clinic, located on the campus of Christiana Hospital, allows for quick access to advanced cardiac evaluations without having to wait for an appointment in a doctor’s office or having to go to the Emergency Department.

Tighe’s reluctance to go to an emergency room and his tendency to soldier through discomfort combined with the seriousness of his condition means that going to Cardiology Consultants’ same-day clinic probably saved his life, Dr. Doorey says.

“I’m really lucky Doc Roberts sent me to Christiana,” Tighe says. “I got very good treatment from all the doctors I saw.”