Local patient shares gratitude for cutting edge cardiac care close to home

Baptist Health Paducah. May 07, 2024

PADUCAH, KY (April 30, 2024) - Christina Burnham, a 58-year-old resident of Metropolis, IL, was recently diagnosed with heart disease and was met with the scary reality that many in her family had faced before her of undergoing open heart surgery to repair a blockage in her left branch, commonly referred to as the “widow maker.” To her surprise, Mrs. Burnham was able to receive a new, minimally invasive robotic coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) procedure to treat her blockage close to home at Baptist Health Paducah.

Blockages in the small arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart muscle can cause various symptoms including trouble breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain or even a heart attack. Baptist Health Medical Group Cardiovascular surgeon Austin Ward, MD, explains that there are two primary methods to treat these blockages: a stint or bypass surgery.

“The two ways to treat this are either a stint or a bypass surgery, and we know in the long-term bypass surgery is going to do better and people are going to live longer with less chest pain and less likely to need interventions in the future,” said Dr. Ward. “In some select patients, we can do a minimally invasive bypass. Given that Mrs. Burnham came to me with only one major blockage and her young age, I was excited to be able to offer her the minimally invasive option.”

Prior to meeting with Dr. Ward, Mrs. Burnham was prepared to travel out of town for treatment. However, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that Baptist Health Paducah offered the advanced robotic CABG procedure she was seeking. This minimally invasive procedure would allow her to return to her daily activities quicker and with less pain.

“I started researching my options and I saw that not many hospitals can offer the minimally invasive bypass I was wanting with the Da Vinci robot, so when I met with Dr. Ward and learned that he could do this procedure in Paducah I was very surprised that we had the technology and expertise right here in Paducah. Of course, fear was still there, but I got a sense of comfort knowing that I could have this close to home.”

Mrs. Burnham’s recovery went as she hoped it would, she recalls, “On my third lap around the unit, I saw Dr. Ward smiling at me and I was so happy because the confidence I had going into the surgery was true – it was quick and I was on my feet. I told Dr. Ward, ‘You’re my rockstar,’ because he gave me care that I don’t think I could have gone outside of the Paducah area and gotten. Not only was he able to treat my disease, but he also took care of me as a patient and that meant a lot to me.”

Not everyone is a candidate for the robotic minimally invasive CABG, traditional bypass surgery is still the right answer for patients needing more than one bypass and it has great patient outcomes.

“I am really passionate about always keeping the options we offer our patients on the cutting edge,” said Dr. Ward. “And this is one of the new innovations that we can offer patients with blockages so that they get the best treatment for the blockage in that artery going down the front of their heart without having to go to a big city to get it. We can do that right here in Paducah, we have great outcomes, and I am proud to be able to offer that.”

It is important to listen to your body. Talk to your primary care provider if you notice changes, or have any concerns to ensure there is not a larger, underlying issue.