"I just couldn't get any air," says Clarence Salow, 84, of Earville, Iowa. The Korean War veteran and retired John Deere employee shifts his gaze to the picture window behind his wife as he recalls that Sunday this past February.
"That was the real battle; just trying to breathe."
It was in 1980 when Clarence experienced his first heart attack. After a successful bypass surgery, life simply went back to normal for the then 49-year-old. He married his wife, Phyllis, three years later at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa, and when he wasn't busy working as a handyman, he spent his time fixing motors on stock cars that his son raced. Life simply went on. It wasn't until this past February, 35 years later, that Clarence experienced another scare with his heart. This time, different.
"No chest pain; I just come out of the bathroom, and walked to the kitchen and it hit me then - just a shortness of breath that kept getting worse and worse," says Clarence. Rushed from Manchester's Regional Medical Center to UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital, Clarence was quickly taken under care of UnityPoint Clinic Cardiologist, Dr. Tauseef Khan, at Finley's Heart and Vascular Center.
"Clarence's case was one where we knew a different approach needed to be made - heavy calcification in two of his arteries was limiting blood from traveling to his heart," explains Dr. Khan, "Removing the calcium first before coronary stent replacement was the best choice for Clarence as a high risk, post-bypass patient." This option requires an advanced procedure - an atherectomy; the first of its kind performed in Dubuque.
Unlike procedures that push plaque against an artery wall, such as a balloon angioplasty and stent replacement, this minimally invasive procedure uses a small rotational device, inserted in the patient's artery via catheter, to cut plaque and calcium completely from the artery wall - removing it entirely and allowing for successful placement of the coronary stent. Although Dr. Khan has been using this device for similar cases in patients at St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Finley now has the latest technology to keep patients in Dubuque for this advanced heart care service.
"Calcium is our nemesis and enemy in terms of achieving a successful intervention," explains Dr. Khan, "In Clarence's case, we could have inserted a stent, but that wouldn't have resulted in the absolute best outcome for our patient. We knew we could do more to ensure a health future for him." Khan was instrumental in bringing this new technology to the Dubuque area and, with the opening of Finley's new Heart and Vascular Center, more innovative heart care procedures such as laser atherectomines will be performed.
As for Clarence, life is once again back to normal as he feels like his old self again. When asked if he felt Dr. Khan saved his life that Sunday in February, he answers with a quick and strong Midwestern Yep. "We had good care and a good doctor," adds Phyllis, "The nurses were all pleasant, all had a smile, and Dr. Khan took the time to sit down and explain everything to us. He's just a good doctor."
At Finley's Heart and Vascular Center, we strive to bring the latest technology and expertise to Dubuque. It's our commitment to our patients and families to seek the best possible coordinated care in order to carry out the best possible outcome for every patient, every time. At Finley, it's been the same philosophy for 125 years.