Shazam Ghany of Middle Island was just helping his cousin do a little yardwork last May, but as he dug holes to plant a few trees and bushes, he found himself breathing heavily and sweating. The 53-yearold warehouse manager and father of two is an active guy. But that afternoon, despite slowing down and drinking a glass of water, Ghany felt like he was running a marathon. Then the chest pains began. “I knew I was in trouble then,” he recalled. His relative took him to the closest hospital, which turned out to be Mather Hospital. “I’m so happy that turned out to be my option,” he said. Proximity wasn’t the only benefit of Mather; Ghany’s timing was also perfect. The hospital had just opened a new cardiac catheterization lab on May 18, and he was its first patient.

How a “cath” saves lives

Cardiac catheterization (sometimes shortened to “cath”) is a procedure in which a thin, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and snaked up toward the heart in order to check how well blood is flowing, open a blockage, or provide other help. Not all patients who come into the cath lab are in the midst of a crisis, but for those who are, like Ghany, every second that can be saved is crucial. Before the lab opened, patients at Mather who needed catheterization had to be sent elsewhere, said Nicole Hoefler, BSN, RN, CVN, nursing director at Mather’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab. “Being able to help patients like Shazam is very meaningful, and the need is clear,” she said. “In just the first three months, we performed 142 procedures.” In addition to detecting and treating blockages, the team at the lab can:

– Check pressure in the heart and lungs
– Implant a temporary pacemaker
– Perform an ablation, a procedure for restoring normal heart rhythm

The Cardiac Catheterization Lab is comprised of two units: One for coronary diagnostic and intervention procedures and another that handles electrophysiology studies, which assess the heart’s electrical system in order to diagnose and treat arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythm. (Electrophysiology services will be available in early 2022.)

A heart in trouble

For Ghany, the cath lab proved vital. A blockage in one of his coronary arteries was keeping oxygen-rich blood from reaching his heart muscle, causing a heart attack. He needed quick action to clear the blockage before precious heart tissue died. Ghany doesn’t remember many details from the moment he got into his relative’s car to the moment he woke up in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, but he does recall that the cardiologist at Mather explained everything that was going on, the purpose of each procedure and what he could expect.

Easing past shock

“That’s how I knew I was in good hands and that they would take care of me,” he said. “Once I got over the shock of being in that situation, I appreciated feeling like I was in the best possible place for care.” The Mather Cath Lab team is still there for him: Ghany checks in with them regularly as he recovers. He gets a little better and is able to do more every day. Eventually, with his doctor’s approval, he may even get back to his family’s yardwork.