Small-town doctors’ visits keep heart care close to home

Heart specialist outreach makes a difference for patient in Vermillion, SD

Aerial view of Sanford Vermillion Medical Center with sunset and trees in background.

Terry Brady doesn’t like to sit still for too long, so when he found out he was suffering from a blockage in one of his arteries, he knew he had do something about it.

After surgery to put in a stent, he went home to Vermillion, South Dakota, intent on following a path of cardiac therapy to the letter. He was going to listen to his providers, trust their expertise and heed their advice.

That well-reasoned plan has led to an impressive ongoing recovery bolstered by easy access to expertise in his own town.

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“I can get around and my wife can get around but for a lot of people, it’s great that they can stay in Vermillion for care,” Brady said. “Or, let’s say you live in Wakonda. They can get to Vermillion. It’s great to have it close by.”

Brady had a visit with Dr. Marian Petrasko, an interventional cardiologist, that was set up for a month after his surgery. In between he was getting himself better with assistance from people like Tammy Austad, a registered nurse who works for Sanford Vermillion Medical Center and has helped him with his therapy.

How hard can I push myself?

“We started off with recording a lot of baseline information,” Brady said, recounting his first therapy sessions in Vermillion. “I got loosened up a little bit and then I got on the treadmill. Tammy is absolutely wonderful – very supportive, knowledgeable, professional, caring — just a great lady. And it was the same for the other patients coming in. She has a great rapport with all of them.”

Brady takes part in therapy sessions three times a week. When he wonders how hard he can push himself, there is someone nearby who has the knowledge to answer that question. Access to expertise has made all the difference.

“You have to trust your rehab people,” Brady said. “Let’s put it this way: I wouldn’t get on a treadmill and walk for 25 minutes if I didn’t have people like Tammy around because I’d be afraid. Because she’s here and can monitor things, she can tell me there is nothing wrong.”

So Brady keeps working. He’s not a stranger to surgery — he’s had problems with his shoulders that warranted therapy in the past. But this was the first time with a heart issue. He has employed the same principles during his recovery, however.

“Terry is a very pleasant, active, positive guy,” said Dr. Petrasko, who visits Vermillion regularly as part of his outreach. “Because I make trips to Vermillion, there is no reason for him to be going to Sioux Falls all the time. We can go over his problems and go over advice on his diet and his lifestyle so that he can avoid more procedures in the future.”

Experts in collaboration

In other words, that time in the car can be replaced by a nice, long walk. Or whatever else comes up that would be time better spent.

Sanford Health has 32 different health care centers outside Sioux Falls located in South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and northern Iowa that are part of Sanford Health’s outreach network. They all get regular visits from specialists like Dr. Petrasko.

That proximity to expertise can serve to encourage people who may be dealing with heart symptoms but are hesitant to seek medical care. It’s a point Dr. Petrasko tries to make with all his patients.

“Not all heart attacks feel like an elephant sitting on your chest,” Dr. Petrasko said. “Maybe you just feel different than usual. Maybe you are nauseous or short of breath. It can be just the feeling that something is not right. Don’t hesitate to be checked out. It’s important to know you didn’t overlook something that is potentially dangerous to your life.”

Heart care is always going to be a collaborative effort. For Brady, a 73-year-old accustomed to an active lifestyle, access to caregivers like Dr. Petrasko and Austad have provided a route to recovery.

“I truly believe my surgery and therapy since then have made a huge difference,” Brady said. “I’ve been walking about two-and-a-half miles a day. There are these little inclines along the way in a couple places that would have me huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. But it’s nowhere near that now. It’s been a complete success.”

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Posted In Heart, Sioux Falls, Specialty Care, Vermillion

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