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Survivor profile: Penrose-St. Francis cardiologist rights heart health wrongs for local woman

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
February 1, 2016 Updated: February 2, 2016 at 11:23 am
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photo - Heart with bandages
Heart with bandages 

Sponsored Feature: Look for daily Heart Health features on gazette.com during American Heart Month.

Pat Jahla celebrated her sixty-fifth birthday on February 14, a date that has grown in significance since she battled heart disease and won. “I love celebrating my birthday on Valentine’s Day,” she said. Each birthday is another year she didn’t think she’d live to see just eight years ago.

One week before Christmas 2004, Jahla went to the emergency room on a Friday night, thinking she had a nasty case of the flu. It turned out she had peptic ulcers and a bad heart. “I was feeling awful,” she said. “They broke the news that I had AFib (atrial fibrillation).”

She then embarked on a course of drug treatment, but nothing seemed to work, and she even had adverse reactions to many of the drugs. “I tried everything in the pharmacopeia,” she said. She also discovered she was very sensitive to anesthetics and for the next several years, underwent a handful of botched operations by an inexperienced cardiologist who left her desperate for someone who could heal her heart.

“One time, he was performing an atrial ablation, and I coded on the table in reaction to the anesthetic,” she said. “I struggled along with the same guy for six more months – I don’t know why – and after I healed, I asked the referring cardiologist for a new referral. He said, ‘I have someone for you.’”

She was sent to Christopher Cole, MD, a cardiologist at Penrose-St. Francis, who had performed well over 5,000 operations that prepared him for Jahla’s complicated case. He discovered Jahla’s heart does not absorb potassium and magnesium well, minerals that control the musculature and electrical functions in the heart, and helped her make appropriate adjustments in her medication and diet. He also performed a successful surgery repairing her heart once and for all.

“I think Dr. Cole’s practice is remarkable; I would be dead if it weren’t for him,” she said. “I had been twice on the table for more than 10 hours each time and was worse off. Two hours and forty-five minutes on the operating table with Dr. Cole and I was fixed. God led me to the right guy.”

Jahla now visits Dr. Cole and his team at Penrose Hospital once a year for an electrocardiogram (EKG) to ensure her heart is healthy. Penrose-St. Francis is part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care. “He has had the same nursing and office staff since I started seeing him years ago – I think that says a lot,” Jahla said. “Every year, they know me by name.”

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