NMMC Heart Institute marks 30th anniversary

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Thirty years is a long time to keep on ticking, and the North Mississippi Medical Center Heart Institute has kept on growing and growing for three decades.
Two-time heart bypass patient James Simmons of Vardaman and wife Frances came to the institute’s open house Tuesday to check out how the heart program has grown.
“I could tell a difference in the modern technology,” between the bypass operations in 1991 and 2001,” said Frances Simmons. Since James Simmons hasn’t needed a third operation, they wanted to see what was new.
During the open house, former patients and their families could check out the newest addition – 24 new rooms in the outpatient recovery area that increase the space and access to bathrooms.
“It should be much more comfortable for patients and their families,” said George Hand, heart institute administrator.
The hospital’s first open heart procedure was performed in January 1981; the medical staff boasted one cardiologist and one heart surgeon. Now there are 17 cardiologists and four heart surgeons backed by a small army of specialized nurses and technicians. They have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including a hybrid operating room and were among the first in the nation to perform a minimally invasive valve replacement operation.
“We had hoped for expansion, but we had no idea,” said Tupelo internist Dr. Gene Murphey, who remembers having to lug his own 60-pound EKG machine around in the 1950s.
Even with the growth in medical technology in heart care, it still comes back to people.
“The reason the program has done so well is the quality of the nurses and support folks,” said retired heart surgeon Dr. Pat Ewing. “That’s what makes the patients get better.”
michaela.morris@journalinc.com