Trident Health

Trident Health is a 407-bed HCA hospital system comprised of two acute care hospitals- Trident Medical Center and Summerville Medical Center- as well as two free standing emergency departments- Centre Pointe Emergency and Moncks Corner Medical Center. The Joint Commission recently named Trident Health to their list of the nation’s top hospitals for quality and safety for the fourth year in a row.

Take Care of Your Most Important Muscle

February is all about heart. While the entire month is deemed “Heart Month,” weeks throughout the month are devoted to specific heart conditions. Valentine’s Day kicks off National Heart Failure Awareness Week. Heart attack, heart disease, and high cholesterol are conditions we often hear about. But what about heart failure?

Heart failure is exactly what it sounds like: the heart loses the ability to pump like it should. Your entire heart is a muscle, and blood is pumped through the body when the muscle contracts. When your heart muscle is worn out it does not move blood as effectively. Your heart comes up with creative ways to ensure blood continues moving through the body, but these adjustments usually result in further damage to the heart muscle.

One measure of heart function is the ejection fraction. According to Trinka Douglas, NP at Trident Heart Failure clinic, “ejection fraction (EF) is the percent of blood in the left ventricle that is ejected with each beat”. The left ventricle moves blood out of the heart. The higher the EF, the stronger the heart is pumping. Douglas mentions that a normal EF is 55% or above, with an EF of 40% or less indicating heart failure.

What causes heart failure? Douglas mentions a primary cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease. According to WebMD, other causes include:

  • Heart attack (hyperlink:

  • Cardiomyopathy (damaged heart muscle)

  • Diseases that put extra stress on the heart, like diabetes or high blood pressure

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Fluid build-up

  • Shortness of breath

  • Lack of appetite

  • High heart rate

  • Chronic coughing

If you have a history of heart disease or begin to notice you are experiencing multiple symptoms consider scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician.

Ideally, heart failure can be prevented by practicing a healthy lifestyle. Douglas mentions it’s important to prevent cardiovascular disease by not smoking, following a heart healthy diet, and exercising. Features of a heart healthy diet include:

  • Limiting sodium to 2300 milligrams/day

  • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables

  • Aiming for at least 25 grams (women) or 30 grams (men) of fiber per day

  • Eating omega-3 fatty acids from fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and olive oil

  • Reducing dietary cholesterol from cheese, red meat, and processed meats

Routine visits to your doctor also help you monitor heart health by measuring your blood pressure and cholesterol.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, call 843-797-3463 to find one near you. Trident Health also hosts a Heart Failure Clinic to help patients best manage their disease. Call (843) 847-4957 to make an appointment.

Superhero Surgeon

Life Before

Life had been tough. Clara Hodges was struggling after the murder of her oldest sister, Carolyn, in 2004. “I couldn’t function,” reported Hodges. She didn’t immediately seek treatment, and although she didn’t realize it, she was suffering from depression. Despite the challenges of depression, she continued to travel from her home in Walterboro to work as secretary to the provost at the College of Charleston.

On Sunday, April 1 2007, Hodges was headed back to Walterboro from her mother’s house in North Charleston. She was near Cross County Road when symptoms began. At first Hodges thought it was an anxiety attack: she was experiencing shallow breathing and pain on the left side of her chest. When her vision became blurry, Hodges knew something was seriously wrong. She turned around, drove to her sister’s house, and crawled to the front door to ask for help. Hodges was experiencing elevated blood pressure and chest pain. A diagnosis of heart attack was confirmed at Trident Medical Center.

Hodges had a heart catheterization on Monday, and underwent a triple bypass at Trident on Thursday under the care of Dr. James Benner from Palmetto Cardiovascular and Thoracic Associates. She came through surgery without issue. “Dr. Benner should have an S on his chest. He’s my superhero because he gave me a second chance,” Hodges says. “Members of the respiratory therapy staff were wonderful, and the whole team went above and beyond.”

Hodge’s experience was a turning point in her behavior, and thoughts, about managing your health. She was determined to get back in the saddle after surgery and began inpatient physical therapy on Friday. She “felt good” on Monday, and was discharged home on Wednesday.

Life After

After discharge, Hodges attended some nutrition classes to learn about healthy eating. She’s been keeping up with exercise, and a Garmin VivoFit helps her monitor daily physical activity. Despite these efforts, Hodges admits maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge. Hodges recognizes the importance of limiting fried and processed foods, but it’s difficult. Having grown up on a farm, it was natural to eat bacon, sausage, and the family’s special fried chicken. A strong will to live keeps Hodges motivated to live a healthy lifestyle. She mentions good longevity among her family members, and she wants to experience that, too! “Lifestyle change is not the end of the world. There are things a lot worse.” Hodges found that gradually weeding out less healthy foods worked best for her.

Many times, women are considered the healthcare decision makers in their family, but they can be wary of facing their own problems, just as men can. She shared that stigmas associated with some illnesses often hinder members of the African American community from seeking help when they need it. Hodges wasn’t certain how to cope with her feelings after her sister passed, and mistook her heart attack symptoms for anxiety.

Today, Hodges looks at managing health in a new way. “If you need help, seek it,” Hodges encourages. “Don’t be afraid or ashamed to need help. Many outlets are available- take advantage of them. Put your pride aside.”

She also acknowledges the importance of self-awareness. “Listen to your body,” Hodges advises. “If it’s a symptom you’ve never had, don’t ignore it. It can be the difference between life and death.”

Hodges will share her story after Dr. Benner presents on treatments for blood vessels in the legs during our Heart Month series. Come hear them speak on Thursday, February 11 from 12 – 1 p.m. at Trident Medical Center. Call 843-797-3463 to register.

Success leads patient to join staff at weight-loss center

First-time visitors to Coastal Carolina Bariatric Center may not believe that the petite woman who greets them once weighed 290. While she did not save many of her “before” photos, Kim Brown, who now weighs 130, keeps one at her desk as proof.

Her experience with weight-loss surgery and the support she received from Dr. Neil McDevitt and his staff made such an impact on her that Brown recently joined them as a medical office specialist. Like many patients, she tells a story of heartaches and celebrations.

“I was always very small in my high school days,” recalls the 43-year-old, who is 5-foot-3 inches tall. “Everybody kept saying, ‘You need to gain weight,’ and I did. And I kept gaining.”

She married at 23, and a year later, she became pregnant and gained close to 60 pounds more, reaching a weight of 290. “It caused my blood pressure to just go off the roof, and I was borderline diabetic.” She developed pre-eclampsia, a dangerous condition for mother and baby, and her placenta ruptured. After an emergency C-section, her daughter was born with brain damage and died about two days later.

Brown sunk into depression. She had a miscarriage a year later, and while she ultimately had a successful pregnancy with the birth of her son Alex when she was 26, she struggled afterward to lose the weight she had gained since high school. Her health got worse, and the hope of having another child faded away.

“I was constantly sick with colds, and tired, and wound up having sleep apnea.” Her oxygen levels were low enough that her doctor considered putting her in the hospital.

“If you don’t do something, you are not going to see your son graduate,” he said and referred her to Coastal Carolina Bariatric Center at Summerville Medical Center (SMC).

In December 2012, she went to a seminar with Dr. McDevitt, and while she doubted she could make the changes that he described, she started his pre-surgery program, striving to eliminate bread, rice, pasta and sweet tea from her diet while counting her steps with a pedometer, trying to reach 10,000 a day.

“My goal is to get you healthy,” Dr. McDevitt told her.

She lost 30 pounds the first two months and was down to 250 at the time of her gastric bypass surgery at SMC. The surgery rerouted the path her food takes during digestion so fewer calories are absorbed, and also reduced the size of her stomach, so that she felt full after only a few bites of food.

Over time, she dropped from a size 22 to a petite size 6 or 8. She no longer needs blood pressure medication, glucose medication or her sleep apnea machine. She no longer struggles to go upstairs and now walks 5Ks.

And she learned it was possible to have another baby, even in her early 40s. This time, she only gained 18 pounds during her pregnancy, and within two weeks of the birth of her son Walker, “our miracle,” she had it back off.

“A lot of people will tell you, ‘You took the easy way out because you did surgery,’” she says. “It’s not the easy way. The way I look at it, the only thing I cheated was death.”

Call Coastal Carolina Bariatric Center at 843-875-8994 to learn more.

Reflux Victims - Burn No More!

Have you felt the burn? If so, you aren’t alone. According to Healthline, 60% of adults will experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms during their lives. GERD symptoms can include pain in the front of the chest, a sour taste in the mouth, or the presence of stomach acid in the throat. In fact, some patients experience reflux while they are asleep, which puts them at risk for choking. The most serious consequence of GERD is esophageal cancer.

Dr. Michael Michel’s mission is to offer relief from GERD to Summerville area residents. Dr. Michel joined the Coastal Carolina Bariatric and Surgical Center (CCBSC) team about 6 months ago. His experience as a general surgeon has led him to treat conditions of the upper digestive tract like achalasia (a condition where patients have difficulty swallowing food and liquid), esophagus and stomach tumors, and bariatric surgery. His expertise with upper GI issues makes him a qualified candidate to tackle GERD treatment.

Dr. Michel explains that GERD symptoms occur because “the valve between the esophagus and stomach is broken.” Stomach acid moves upward from the stomach to the esophagus, creating discomfort in the chest. Most people are diagnosed with GERD after age 40, though it does occur in all ages. Aging, being pregnant, and being overweight increase your risk of developing GERD. High fat food, spicy foods, citrus foods and caffeine are items that may trigger GERD symptoms. Symptoms may also worsen at night, when gravity tends to pull stomach acid toward the throat. Dr. Michel states that treatment for GERD can occur in three stages:

Stage 1 — Treatment through lifestyle change. This includes changing what you eat and when you eat it, sleeping with the head of the bed elevated, losing weight, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco products. Dr. Michel mentioned research supports elevating the head of the bed and losing weight as the most effective lifestyle interventions.

Stage 2 — Treatment through medication. The next level of therapy involves medication. “This often works for mild symptoms,” explained Dr. Michel. However, 40% of people taking medication for GERD are taking medications they don’t need or don’t work.

Stage 3 — Treatment through surgery. Until now, surgery was only considered for those with severe symptoms. With newer treatments now available, surgical intervention may be considered for certain patients with even mild reflux. Dr. Michel feels surgery for GERD is the equivalent of “fixing the broken valve” that exists between the esophagus and stomach.

If undergoing surgery, it’s important to research your options. For many years a procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication has been the preferred procedure to treat GERD. In this procedure, part of the stomach is used to create a new esophageal sphincter, or “valve.” Although patients are usually sent home the day after surgery, recovery can take weeks. Patients may have trouble with bloating, and it is frequently not possible to burp or belch to reduce gas. These patients are also not able to vomit. Your physician may recommend you follow a liquid or soft diet for up to six week after surgery. Long term, patients are advised to eat 5-6 small meals to reduce “gas bloat” symptoms and to prevent “unwrapping” of the Nissen.

A new procedure for GERD is called LINX. This procedure allows patients to return home on the same day of the procedure. In addition, patients tend to experience a better quality of life shortly after the procedure. They are permitted to eat regular food right away, and do not have to change their long term eating habits. Patients are able to belch and vomit, and therefore do not get “gas bloat syndrome”. With LINX, a small band of magnets is placed around the esophagus. The magnets serve as a new “one-way valve”. “Another benefit of the LINX procedure is that I do not alter the patient’s anatomy, it is completely and easily reversible”. Dr. Michel has extensive experience performing all types of fundoplications, including the Nissen, and is one of only a handful of surgeons in the country with experience performing LINX surgeries on certain advanced surgery patients. He offers the LINX procedure at Summerville Medical Center.

Patients are able to schedule appointments with Dr. Michel to discuss GERD treatment or other conditions related to the esophagus and stomach, including bariatric surgery. Call Coast Carolina Bariatric and Surgical Center at 843-875-8994 or visit to make an appointment.

Fighting Diabetes in South Carolina [INFOGRAPHIC]

Diabetes is reaching epidemic levels nationally, and the rates in South Carolina put our state in the top 10 nationwide. Of these diabetes cases, as many as 95 percent of them are type 2 diabetes. While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and poor diet. In South Carolina, a number of factors contribute to type 2 diabetes, including the Southern diet, which often includes sugary sweet tea and fried foods. Taking steps to control your risk of diabetes means you also reduce your risk of heart and vascular diseases and nerve damage. In this infographic, Trident Health provides diabetes education for patients across our hard-hit state. In addition to diabetes education near Charleston, we provide a range of services, including emergency care, robotic surgery, and orthopedics. Help to reverse our statewide diabetes crisis by sharing this information.

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