By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – No balloons or confetti rained down on Pontotoc County’s Betty Graham when she became the 20,000th open heart surgery patient at North Mississippi Medical Center in early July.
“I didn’t know anything about it until I got home,” after the July 5 surgery, said the 74-year-old Hurricane community resident, who is recovering well after the procedure.
Graham and the NMMC Heart Institute celebrated formally on Wednesday with three other patients representing firsts in a collaborative adult congenital heart surgery and a groundbreaking treatment for enlarged, obstructive septums.
“It’s a great milestone,” said George Hand, heart institute administrator. “We’ve had a lot of firsts in the year.”
The Heart Institute physicians and staff had been watching for the milestone surgery in early July, said heart surgeon Dr. David Talton, who performed five successful coronary artery bypasses and a mitral valve repair on Graham that day.
“She was number six or seven that day,” Talton said “We had a full day.”
The NMMC Heart Institute, which dates back to 1991 in Tupelo, sees about 700 bypass surgeries each year, along with about 200 open heart valve replacements now, making the busiest heart program in the region. They are also performing minimally invasive procedures using catheters to replace heart valves.
The success reflects that cardiologists, heart surgeons, nurses, techs and other staff members are all pulling together with support from the hospital administration and the community.
“It’s really a team effort,” said heart surgeon Dr. Vishal Sachdev.