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Bob Ruff Bob Ruff was working late on a Friday afternoon when he began to feel ill.

“It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest,” says Bob, then 62, a technical analyst for a rigging equipment supplier in Houston. “My throat and both sides of my neck were burning,” he says. “My jaw was hurting.” 

Although he had no history of heart problems, Bob’s grandfather died of a heart attack.  Bob, having received training in first aid, was certain that he was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. Almost immediately, he asked co-workers to call 9-1-1. Within five minutes, Houston EMS arrived, and Bob asked to be taken to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Soon, Bob was in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at St. Luke’s, where an interventional cardiologist performed an angioplasty, unblocking his heart artery within 27 minutes of his arrival to St. Luke’s and within 57 minutes of his first contact with emergency medical providers (EMS).

Bob experienced what is known as a STEMI—ST-elevation myocardial infarction. This complete blockage of a heart artery by a blood clot, as determined by an electrocardiogram, is the most severe type of heart attack. Bob’s blockage was in the left anterior descending artery, one of three arteries that feed the heart and the one that supplies blood to the largest area of the heart muscle.

“We call it the widow maker because a complete blockage in this area has the highest incidence of death if not attended to urgently,” says Cardiologist Maher Nasser, MD, who performed the procedure.

Recently, St. Luke’s was the first and only hospital in Greater Houston to receive accreditation as a Mission: Lifeline® Heart Attack (STEMI) Receiving Center by the American Heart Association and Society of Chest Pain Centers. This prestigious recognition was granted to St. Luke’s because of its success in developing and implementing a system to rapidly respond to patients having an acute heart attack. Due to well-orchestrated processes involving cardiologists and other personnel at St. Luke’s and EMS providers, St. Luke’s consistently unblocks a heart artery in less than 90 minutes from a patient’s first medical contact with a paramedic.

As for Bob, he spent less than 48 hours in the hospital and received the green light to be back on the golf course two weeks later. He credits Houston EMS and the St. Luke’s team with his successful outcome. “Everyone at St. Luke’s was outstanding,” he says.

Kaitlin Foster

Kaitlin Foster, a 20-year-old college student, has worked most of her life to overcome a serious obstacle–epilepsy.  When Kaitlin was only three years old, she began experiencing recurring seizures.  After seeing multiple doctors, Kaitlin was prescribed medication to control her convulsions.  For the next seven years, she was able to live episode-free and function confidently.

While observing her in an epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) in Dallas, doctors determined that without medication, Kaitlin, then 12 years old, would experience intense and life-threatening seizures.  They tried new medications to subdue Kaitlin’s episodes once more, but those also resulted in massive attacks. After speaking with numerous neurologists, Kaitlin received a vagus nerve stimulator, which was implanted under her skin. The stimulator, which significantly altered Kaitlin’s speech, offered minimal long-term control over her seizures, and within only a few months of surgery, Kaitlin’s episode activity had returned to an increased daily level. 

At 14 years old, Kaitlin began experiencing cluster seizures lasting up to an hour and a half several times a day.  Unable to attend school, continue with sports or maintain a normal childhood, Kaitlin required homeschooling.

After numerous EEGs, MRIs and CT scans, Kaitlin’s physician determined she was an ideal candidate for brain surgery.  Kaitlin underwent the first two of six craniotomies. At the time, the resection surgery brought relief to the seizure frequency and intensity, but with it also came a complete loss of right foot and ankle control–one of the most difficult adjustments for her, as she loved playing sports and being active.  However, she was able to go back to school.

After graduating from high school, Kaitlin underwent a fourth cranial surgery as the seizures had returned.   This surgery affected her speech and required further therapy.  She prepared for a fifth surgical procedure, but upon admission to the OR, she was diagnosed with a significant brain infection. With this last hope for relief cancelled, Kaitlin reluctantly cancelled her plans to attend college.

In 2008, Kaitlin was referred to a neurologist at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. With renewed hope, Kaitlin prepared for her next cranial surgery.  On Dec. 15, 2009, a day she says she will always remember, a “truly brilliant” neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s changed her life forever.  Kaitlin’s new St. Luke’s medical team successfully located and removed the area in Kaitlin’s brain that caused her recurring seizures.  Kaitlin’s post-surgery relief was nearly immediate.  She began college, moved into a dormitory and started classes only four weeks after surgery.  Kaitlin has been seizure-free for more than a year and plans to study Animal Science with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.  

Courageously, the 38-year-old radiation oncologist has been battling lupus which affected her lungs and kidneys. While receiving kidney dialysis last year, Melenda Jeter tried to walk to a scale to weigh herself. Suddenly, she experienced a “heavy” sensation in her left arm and leg. Moments later, she was lying in a chair surrounded by nurses shouting, “stroke protocol, stroke protocol!” 

She was rushed to the Emergency Department at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. After suffering minor seizures, the St. Luke’s stroke team discovered that her blood pressure was elevated and she was paralyzed on her left side. Melenda was afraid that she would never walk again.

She was administered rt-PA (clot-busting medication) and then admitted to the Neuro ICU for further care. The team also determined that her right brain had become swollen and immediately administered aggressive treatment, which was a success.

After two weeks, Melenda was able to wiggle a finger, and soon she could move all five fingers and slightly kick her leg. While she began to regain feeling on her left side; she realized that she had lost all strength on her right side, which was eventually treated with intensive rehabilitation.  She continued her rehabilitation at home and was almost 100 percent by early November. 

Melenda returned to work at MD Anderson Cancer Center in November and is now an inspiration to others. 

“I love the attention I get from my doctors at St. Luke’s.”

Nick Godkin is a retired electrician and lives happily on his ranch north of Houston with his wife. He has always kept busy with the garden, animals and daily chores. When he noticed his vision was getting blurry, he decided to go to the doctor. Surprisingly they discovered he had a brain tumor. Having trusted a St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital physician with his Mother's care, he chose the same physician to care for him.

Using the minimally invasive stereotactic radiosurgery system, Gamma Knife®, Nick underwent a procedure to treat the brain tumor without incision! Within one day, Nick was treated for his brain tumor and went home within hours of the procedure. In fact, Nick was back to doing his daily chores just days after treatment. Nick says it didn't slow him down at all and is very grateful for the entire medical staff and team of experts at St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital.

When Bob Baylor was first diagnosed with cancer, he was given traditional radiation treatments. But in 2009, he learned that the cancer had returned, when a malignant spot was found on the lower left lobe of his lung.

Bob had never heard of Cyberknife® technology but his physicians at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital told him it was a better treatment option for his lung cancer. Today, he is thankful that they did.

Cyberknife® is a robotic radiosurgery system that delivers high doses of radiation with extreme accuracy from hundreds of directions with minimal damage to surrounding normal tissue. The pencil-thin beams of radiation track and move with the tumor, allowing for a precisely focused, non-surgical treatment.

Bob's treatment consisted of four painless Cyberknife® sessions, all within the same week. Each lasted only a few hours.

Not only was he thrilled with the successful outcome, he was back to playing tennis within weeks of his treatment.

At 33 years of age, Rahsaan Reid was at the top of his game. He worked out every day, had a good job, a beautiful wife and coached his two young sons' athletic teams. But his world changed suddenly when he found out he had a rare, progressive disease called Alport Syndrome that would soon lead to kidney failure.

Rahsaan began dialysis, and struggled to continue his active lifestyle. He also began researching the possibility of a transplant and found St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital Cooley Transplant Center. After meeting with the team there, he was put on the national organ donor wait list. Through the three and a half years he waited for an organ donor match, the St. Luke's team kept his hopes alive. Finally, he got the call.

Rahsaan smiles as he talks about his surgery. "The last thing I remember before going into surgery is that the team was singing "Happy Birthday" to me, because it was like I was getting an entirely new life."

See what Rahsaan has to say about his experience.

During his post-op recovery, Rahsaan says he learned the true meaning of St. Luke's Faithful, Loving Care®. "Every time I woke up, I would see the reassuring face of either my transplant surgeon, nephrologist or nurse standing right there at my bedside. I could feel how much they cared."

Today, Rahsaan enjoys his family and active lifestyle more than ever. He is back to working out regularly and coaching his sons in soccer, baseball and football. He regularly shares words of encouragement with dialysis patients and takes every opportunity to educate others on the importance of organ donation. He expresses his heartfelt gratitude as he explains "My kidneys gave up, but St. Luke's never did."

When Charles returned from a business trip to Africa, he had no idea a lethal strain of malaria came with him. A friend rushed Charles to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital with a severe, recurring fever. The St. Luke's staff quickly discovered that over 50 percent of Charles' blood was infected with malaria and immediate treatment was critical to saving his life. This treatment included the exchange of his malaria infected blood with healthy donor blood and Charles required many transfusions of blood and platelets during his illness.

Charles says he owes everything to the St. Luke's staff and to the many blood donors that saved his life, and he urges all individuals to become regular blood donors. To make a lifesaving blood donation, please donate at The St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital Blood Center.

In December 2008, 19 year old Sarah Murphy was experiencing a normal pregnancy until her heart started racing. It turned out to be a life-threatening disease.

Seven months into her pregnancy, Sarah raced to the hospital. Doctors at St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital performed a C-section to relieve stress on her body and safely deliver her new bundle of joy. The baby lived, Sarah died.

Doctors performed CPR for three hours to bring Sarah back to life. The team at St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital never gave up. Their commitment to provide quality care, saved her life. Sarah recovered and went home to hold her daughter for the first time.

Today, Sarah is the proud mother of a 19-month old and is enjoying every single day of motherhood.

Nadine Vanterpool has been working for St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital for 21 years. In all that time, she has made many friends. She didn't realize the depth of those friendships until they were put to the test.

Nadine was having some female problems and went in to her OBGYN for an exam. They immediately found a lump in her breast and took a biopsy. By the time she got back to her office at St. Luke's, her doctor called her with the news. She had breast cancer and she was told that she would need to get with a surgeon right away. Her first thought was about work. She didn't see how she was going to be able to take time off for surgery but her doctor said, "Right now, it's all about you".

"When I came home and told my mom, she threw the piece of paper with the diagnosis at me and told me it couldn't be true. I certainly didn't have breast cancer."

They removed 13 lymphnodes.

Chemotherapy started on April 24 2009 with the last treatment being on May 20, 2010. "To my delight and surprise, my co-workers threw me a surprise party to celebrate making it through 1 year of treatment. With the support of my biological family and my work family, I MADE IT!"

Listen to Nadine's story.

When Wilmer Morgan, 74, began losing his hearing, he chalked it up to aging. Thinking he might need a hearing aid, he went to his doctor.

"Was I surprised to learn I had a tumor in my ear!" he said. Morgan had an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumor that develops on a nerve between the brain and inner ear. The slow-growing tumor had advanced beyond the ear canal and was putting pressure on Morgan's brain stem.

That's when Morgan, who lives just north of Beaumont, found his way to the Texas Medical Center and became the first patient treated with St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital's new CyberKnife by St. Luke's radiation oncologist Steve Carpenter, M.D. "The CyberKnife zeros in on the tumor from all angles, delivering multiple beams of high-dose radiation. Each individual beam is not strong enough to cause harm, but the cumulative effect of all the beams creates a very high dose of radiation aimed at the tumor with extreme accuracy. The pinpoint accuracy protects and preserves the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. " Morgan finished his three-dose treatment in three days and was very happy to get back to his normal activities. "As soon as I got home, I was back out in the garden tending to my citrus trees," said Morgan, who grows lemons, limes and navel oranges. It's stories like Wilmer's that remind us how wonderful state-of-the art technology can be and how important it is to our every day lives and loved ones. It means St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital is giving people like Wilmer alternatives to treatment and helping him to hear all the birds that sing to him in his own, home citrus grove.

Overcome with H1N1 swine flu, Gene Klein passed out at the kitchen table. His wife, Betty, rushed him to St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital.

Upon his arrival in the emergency room, the staff immediately began treatments to elevate his oxygen levels. However, within hours, he deteriorated and was placed on life support. All of his vital organs were shutting down due to lack of oxygen. Despite less than a 50/50 chance of survival, the team of medical professionals at St. Luke's The Woodlands Hospital never gave up. They turned to ECMO therapy, an artificial heart and lung system that helped to oxygenate his blood. This treatment and his healthcare team saved Gene's life.

Today, Gene enjoys playing golf and fishing with his two sons, Matthew and Justin. And, as a result of Gene's medical experience, his daughter Lauren is pursuing medical school

After falling in his garage, Mike Berglund suffered deep cuts from a broken light bulb. He called a friend who rushed him to a nearby St. Luke's Community Emergency Center (CEC).

Once there, emergency physicians cleaned, irrigated and x-rayed his wounds to check for embedded glass. It was confirmed that the wound was clear, so the staff applied a dressing and fortunately no stitches were required.

Mike walked away with a clean bill of health and the confidence that comes from receiving St. Luke's special brand of Faithful, Loving Care®.

Debra Bailey wasn't feeling like herself as she was sluggish and having a hard time keeping up with her three children. Many friends and family also commented on how her eyes and skin appeared yellow. Her physician confirmed it was liver disease and suggested that she go to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital for treatment.

Tests were conducted at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, which revealed extremely high levels of enzymes that required medication. Debra was later contacted with the results and was told she needed to register for the transplant list. Two days later, Debra's body shut down while she was taking a nap and she was admitted to the ICU. At this moment, Debra and her family realized how desperate she was for a liver transplant. Luckily, a liver was located and the transplant was performed the next day.

Debra recovered for a week in the hospital and is grateful to the donor family and to the compassionate and expert staff at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. She said "If it wasn't for St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, I wouldn't be here today. I have so much thanks to give to St. Luke's - they gave me my life back."

Debra, fully recovered, now home schools her children and is an advocate for organ donation throughout the Beaumont area.

Wilbert Hillin had been on dialysis for almost a year and needed a kidney transplant.

His younger brother, Robert Hillin, generously offered to give Wilbert one of his. Throughout the extensive process to test and assure Wilbert's body would accept his brother's kidney, age was a concern as most donor organs are from patients under the age of 60. Wilbert Hillin was 71 and his donor (Robert) was 67. Both Robert and Wilbert were determined and underwent further evaluations -- Robert was found to be a perfect HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) match for the transplant!

It took five and a half hours to remove Robert's kidney and almost four and a half to implant it into Wilbert. Five days later Robert was discharged, followed by Wilbert a month later.

The staff fell in love with the Hillin brothers and they were treated like family. After the transplant, Wilbert said that "St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital has been great to us and a lifesaver for me." It's a story like this that makes the staff and physicians at St. Luke's proud to be able to provide families with Faithful, Loving Care®.

Believing that a 3-hour bike ride had left his body dehydrated and in need of fluids, 37-year old Greg Bauer decided to go to the St. Luke's Community Emergency Center (CEC) at Holcombe. He had been a patient there in 2005 and remembered having a wonderful experience.

Only after being initially seen and evaluated at the CEC, did Greg complain of arm and chest pain. With no previous family history of coronary heart disease, no risk factors and after living a healthy lifestyle, he was shocked to learn from the emergency physicians that he had a totally occluded Left Anterior Descending Artery and was having a ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI-heart attack). Greg was transferred and directly admitted to the CATH lab at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital for angioplasty, the repair of a blocked artery.

Thanks to the experienced staff and technology at the CEC, Greg can get back to riding his bike every weekend.

As an active nurse, Renee Revis-Robinson was trained to recognize heart attack symptoms in others. After having shortness-of-breath for a few days, Renee determined that a trip to the emergency room was needed for her.

Fully aware that timing was critical, Renee drove just 3 minutes from her home to the St. Luke's Community Emergency Center (CEC) in Pearland. Because the CEC is equipped with the technology and board-certified physicians needed to deal with an emergency like Renee's, she was immediately given the treatment necessary to sustain her while being transferred to the CATH lab at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital for stent surgery.

After the quick service and professional care she received at the CEC, Renee is thankful for each day that she can help others.

Twenty-one year-old Allyssa Smith was fighting for her life when she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a life threatening disease that affects the heart muscle.

She turned to Texas Heart® Institute (THI) at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital to make sure her dream wedding became a reality.

Thanks to the HeartMate II®, a heart assist device which was clinically developed and first used at THI, Allyssa recently walked down the aisle. With the care and dedication of her cardiologist Dr. Roberta Bogaev and surgeon Dr. Bud Frazier, Ally is living a full life.

With a family history of heart disease -- his Dad had quadruple bypass surgery twice -- 33-year-old high school football coach Audie Johnson thought he might be at risk one day, but not yet. After all, he was young and even though his busy lifestyle didn't allow for exercise and often meant fast food in a hurry, heart disease wasn't in his playbook.

After experiencing shortness of breath and a lingering pain in his left arm, Audie listened to a friend and visited the Texas Heart® Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, where emergency test results revealed elevated cardiac enzymes—a marker for heart-muscle damage. The team rushed him to the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, where cardiologists diagnose and treat heart disease. There, a stent was inserted to relieve a 90 percent blockage in an artery. To Audie's amazement, the whole procedure was done through a small incision in his wrist, which allowed for a faster recovery.

Over the past year, Audie has used his experience to create better lifestyle choices for himself, his wife and even his fellow coaches. His actions include regular exercise, which some of the other coaches join in, and healthier eating at home and at school during lunch. His wife has lost weight as have the other coaches, all due to Audie's influence.

Thanks to the outstanding care and guidance he received from Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Audie has lost more than 80 pounds and now exemplifies a gridiron spirit of health to his team.