Posts Tagged ‘Columbia’

This place is a zoo!

August 22, 2010

Yes it is! It was designed to be!

I was recently invited to be a part of a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Conference scheduled to be held at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina! I haven’t said anything yet because it is still in the planning stages, but they have the date set: February 26, 2011!

I accepted – the zoo is only about 70 miles from my home. So no flights, and no Baggage Claim! I’m planning to stay away from any Baggage Claim area for a little while!

This will be fun, since I haven’t been to the Zoo in quite a while. Since I was there last (escorting a church youth group in the mid 1990’s) they have added a Botanical Garden and changed a lot of the exhibits. I do hate to see that the polar bears are gone. When I was in grade school we’d take a field trip to the zoo at least once a year, and the Polar Bear exhibit featured a large pool. I’m sure the bears appreciated it, since they are a little overdressed for South Carolina. They also had an underground cavern where you could watch the Polar Bears swim around through a huge plate-glass window in the side of the pool. The cavern always seemed to be closed; they had problems with the window leaking. But I looked at a map of the Zoo and the Polar Bears have been replaced by Grizzlies. I hope they have a pool and a window, for old times sake.

I took my oldest niece to the zoo when she was young, and like a good uncle I tried to convince her that I always thought my brother (her dad) was born in the Monkey exhibit. For some reason she didn’t believe me! Just to make sure, we studied the Monkeys for quite a while but didn’t see him. She said he was at work, but I think he was hiding in the shadows.

Being serious again, the Zoo will be fun, and I’ll get to hang out with a bunch of Cardiac Kids and their parents. We’ll have a blast together…. and if you are visiting Riverbanks Zoo that day, you’ll probably never know any of us are sick kids. We’ll look like a big group just out having fun, just like so many other groups that visit the Zoo. In most cases, a CHD is an invisible disability. You can’t tell we’re sick, and for the most part we adapt well. CHDers learn at an early age that we have to do things a little differently, take it just a step slower, and pace ourselves. We don’t want to be different, but as my father says, “You play the hand you were dealt.” This is the way it is, and we deal with it.

The conference is going to be sponsored by Palmetto Hearts, and you’ll see more details as they become available. If you are a heart family in South Carolina, plan to attend!

The Early Special at the Funky Heart Cafe

February 4, 2010

Let me remind you about two events that you want to be a part of if you live in the Palmetto State: Heart Parents Justin and Shannon are going to be hosting a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Awareness Breakfast this Saturday (February 6, 2010) at the Fatz Cafe on Broad River Road in Irmo, South Carolina. If you aren’t from around here, just head for the center of the state: Irmo is a suburb of our capital city, Columbia. The breakfast starts at 7:30 AM and continues until 10:30 AM, and for $7.00 you can get Pancakes (Butter and Syrup will be available, but remember, the arteries that get clogged will be yours!) Sausage, Fruit, and a beverage. And your $7.00 will go to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for CHD research! Their son Derrick is recovering from heart surgery (Less than 3 weeks ago!) but he says that he will make an appearance if his busy schedule allows. Hey, he’s lost some important “Kid Time” during his hospital stays, he’s still trying to catch up! Derrick is also a coin-carrying member of the Funky Heart team; ask him nicely and he might show it to you.

Once you have eaten so much that you need a hand getting to your car, drive over to The Inn at USC for the Palmetto Hearts CHD Conference! The Inn at USC is located at 1619 Pendelton Street, which is downtown. You could use a good walk after that big breakfast you just ate, but Fatz Cafe and The Inn are too far apart. Park up the street and walk the rest of the way.

The CHD Conference starts at 1:00 PM and lasts until 5:00. Featured will be several doctors from MUSC and Kim Russell, an adult CHD Survivor and author of the book In a Heartbeat. I’ve met Kim; she’s a classy woman and a strong advocate for CHD Survivors.

It’s going to be two great events – and I can’t be at either one of them, due to previous obligations. So it’s up to you to go in my place!

Money to be made

December 9, 2009

You would do well not to have heart surgery – either for a Congenital Heart Defect or an acquired Heart Problem – in Central South Carolina.

Before you understand why, I need to explain the basic geography: In Columbia, South Carolina are several hospitals, but there are two of interest: One of them is Providence, which bills itself as the state’s heart hospital. Most of the procedures they do are for acquired heart problems – catherizations, bypass, stent placement… that’s their specialty. (I’ve been a patient there, They are very good at what they do, but when you are talking about Congenital Heart Defects, not so much.) There is another hospital nearby, Palmetto Health, that also performs heart surgery. Like “the state’s heart hospital”, they also do mainly procedures that you associate with acquired heart problems.

Think about that: two heart surgery hospitals in a city with less than 200,000 population. Wow. If you ask them, they need all these heart surgery options because the hospitals are centrally located and serve most of South Carolina, which has a population of about 3 million people. (Most CHD surgery is done at the Medical University of South Carolina, located 200 miles away in Charleston.)

Now look across the county line, at Lexington Medical Center. Lexington Medical wants to start performing heart surgery. They want it bad – so bad, that two years ago they went to South Carolina’s state health organization (the Department of Health and Environmental Control, known by their acronym, DHEC) and requested permission to start a heart surgery unit.

DHEC (pronounced “Dee-Heck”) said no. There’s plenty of heart surgery options available across the county line in Columbia, and they aren’t really far away. We don’t really need a third heart surgery center that close to the other two.

Now what could prompt Lexington Medical to want to start a surgical unit? Greed. Heart Surgery can be a cash cow for a hospital. There’s money in them there Ventricles, and gosh darn it, we should claim our fair share!

So after DHEC turned them down, Lexington Medical limped off to nurse its wounds, but was soon back with another plan. If they could convince DHEC to reduce the minimum number of heart operations needed to qualify as a surgical center, they could get their Heart Surgery unit!

Are they out of their freaking minds?

If you want to become proficient at something, you do it… and keep doing it until you get good at it. This is especially true with heart surgery: patients fare better under the care of more experienced surgeons and hospitals. But Lexington Medical wanted to lower the number of procedures required. Thankfully, DHEC shot this idea down, too.

But once again, Lexington Medical is back – this time, they have convinced Providence to shut down one of their heart surgery units while Lexington Medical opens the Open Heart Surgery unit so have wanted so badly. In return, Lexington Medical will pay Providence fifteen million dollars.

Are they out of their freaking minds?

The answer seems to be yes – not just at Lexington Medical, but also over at Providence, too. And at DHEC for agreeing to this crazy scheme. A surgical unit (of any specialty) can not be purchased at Hospitals R Us – they have to be assembled, person by person, one team member at a time, until you have an experienced unit that works well together. That could take ten to fifteen years.

Obviously, money is a big factor in any medical program. But Lexington Medical Center has pursued their new open heart surgery center not to serve the community, but in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

You Gotta be Kidding Me!

August 16, 2008

Oh, my….!

Excuse me for a moment. Right now steam is literally coming out of my ears and I’m not typing this post as much as I am pounding the keyboard.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: If you or your child needs advanced Cardiac Care – if you need advance medical care of any type – do not, repeat NOT seek it in South Carolina.

For years now these guys have looked across the river at two other hospitals and their Cardiac Care units with lust in their eyes. They want a Cardiac Care unit of their very own. The trouble is, you can’t just build a medical unit in the great state of South Carolina. You have to have approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (who use the acronym DHEC, which is pronounced “Dee-Heck”) and so far, DHEC has said there is no need for another Cardiac Care Unit. There are two good units across the river, they say, and there is no need for another one. We don’t need three facilities so close together, all we’ll have is duplication of care, and the quality of all three units will decline.

So the hospital tried a different tactic: Get an amendment to the State Health Plan (an overview of the state’s medical needs, drawn up by the South Carolina Hospital Association and approved by DHEC) that actually lowers the minimum number of heart surgeries a unit must do to maintain DHEC approval.

Amazing Fact #1: The amendment lost by a vote of 7 to 6.

Amazing Fact #2: Because the state’s “sunshine law” wasn’t complied with, this issue is going to be voted on again!

Common sense will tell you that the only way a good medical team comes together is through experience. This list by U.S. News and World Report lists the top heart hospitals in the nation, and here is the best Pediatric hospital for heart problems. These hospitals got to be so good by experience; and they got that experience through repetition. Not by trying to get by on the least effort possible.

The move to lower the minimum number of procedures doesn’t show a willingness to provide top notch heart care… it tells me that they are more interested in dipping into the deep pockets of the insurance companies. And no, I am not so blind as to believe that everyone involved in Cardiology has pure motives; there is plenty of money to be made. But you can at least act like you have the health of the community as your best interest.