Grove City Woman Charts Advances In Heart Care Through Generations Of Her Family


UPDATED: Wednesday February 12, 2014 11:58 AM

Preparing a meal is easy again for Carol Powless of Grove City.  

Last December she got a pacemaker, and for the first time in years, she wasn't tired. She recalled years of lethargy.

"You think you're always tired.  You're supposed to be tired. Tired, and then my heart rate was low, but my blood pressure was high," she said.

She felt so bad, that several time she made trips to an emergency department. She said that doctors gave her medicine, but told her they weren't sure what was wrong.

"I got to the point where I didn't go to the hospital because I thought, there's nothing I can do," she said.  

Then late last year, she needed an emergency squad.  That time, she asked them to change hospitals, and transport her to the OSU Wexner Medical Center.

"Within minutes in the E.R, the doctor told me what was wrong and said what we were going to do."

Carol got her pacemaker at the same hospital where she says her grandmother, Tillitha Sowers, underwent one of the first open heart surgeries in 1956. Her grandmother only survived another year, and died in 1957, but Carol sees Tillitha as a pioneer.

"Somebody has to start somewhere. So, you know, she was one that said okay, I'll go ahead and try it for women. And that's brought us a long way."

"Forty years ago we knew very little about heart disease, and really we were just starting to understand coronary artery disease," said Dr. Charles Bush, a cardiologist at the OSU Wexner Medical Center.  "Open heart surgery was very new. The thing that led to open heart surgery was the ability really to bypass the heart."

Doctors used a pump called an oxygenator.

Many heart treatments involved opening the chest...but now Dr. Bush says doctors can do a lot through a tiny hollow tube called a catheter. Doctors can open blocked arteries with a tiny balloon, and apply stents, a sort of miniature ladder, to open the artery so blood can flow.

"That sometimes seems a little bit amazing that you can replace a valve with catheter-based technique, but that is possible now in selected situations," he added.

Dr. Bush said that 25 years ago, one-third of heart attack patients died.  Now, 90 percent survive. He said doctors also have gotten much better over the years at diagnosis and treatment.

"As far as living longer, as far as living much more productively, there's just no question that we've made major strides," he said.

Carol knows that first-hand.  She had advice for people with heart symptoms.

""Don't let it go. And be persistent," she said.

The past half century has also brought us pacemakers, heart transplants, and devices to keep the old heart pumping until a donated one can replace it.

Dr. Bush expects a fully mechanical heart may be the next step, along with the use of stem cells to grow new tissue, and gene analysis to personalize care.

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