When the paramedics delivered a Port Ludlow resident to Harrison Medical Center emergency room, she was evaluated by a cardiac surgeon. He told her she had to go to Seattle. When she arrived at the University of Washington Medical Center, that same man –Harrison’s cardiac surgery chief Dr. Chris King – was in the room.

“He claimed he came for another reason, but I knew he was there for me,” said Ludlow’s Eleanor Roden.

King, director of cardiac surgery at Harrison and assistant professor at UW Medical School, is a crucial part of a heart patient’s “chain of survival.” Upgrades to emergency medical services in all fire districts within Jefferson County have helped greatly. There are paramedics trained to operate more accurate and more revealing 12-lead electrocardiograms (EKGs), said physician Brent Wesenberg, medical director of the emergency department at Jefferson Healthcare Hospital in Port Townsend.

The EKG allows doctors to diagnose acute heart attacks in the field in a matter of two minutes, so they can direct the patient to Harrison in Bremerton or to Seattle, saving precious time in the race to save lives.

“We are proud to be partners in healthcare with Jefferson Healthcare,” said Scott Bosch, chief executive officer of Harrison Medical Center.

Harrison, said King, is a tertiary facility that can handle open-heart surgery and other acute heart conditions that local facilities such as Jefferson Healthcare aren’t equipped to manage. There is always a heart surgeon on duty at Harrison. If patients need more sophisticated procedures such as transplant surgery, King can facilitate those advanced procedures, but Harrison heart surgeons can perform advanced open heart, thoracic and vascular surgery.

Harrison, about an hour’s drive from Port Townsend, is an hour closer than driving to Seattle and at least 30 minutes closer than Tacoma medical facilities. Harrison’s average for being able to intervene within 120 minutes for heart attack patients is 79 percent for the final six months of 2005, compared with national averages of 70 percent.

Dr. King spoke to about 150 Port Ludlow residents who came to the Port Ludlow Bay Club on April 1 to hear about Harrison’s cardiac facilities and the connection between diabetes and heart disease. Port Ludlow resident Peggy Schafran arranged the health seminar.

As people age, they develop Type 2 diabetes, in which tissues become more resistant to insulin, explained King. About 65 percent of diabetic deaths come from heart disease and stroke. Diabetes can take five to 10 years off someone’s life span. About 18.2 million are diabetics, but 5.2 million of them are undiagnosed.

Some have a pre-diabetic silent condition that can be reversed with exercise and diet. But even people with diagnosed diabetes can moderate the progression of diabetes and the possibility of heart disease. There are three such indicators that King called the ABC’s of diabetes: reducing the average level of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol (see sidebar story).

“It’s not rocket science,” said King. “You can do it yourself. You can control your own destiny. If you see me, we haven’t done the preventive part very well.”

(Contact Janet Huck at jhuck@ptleader.com.)

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