Alain Bouchard, M.D., cardiologist at Princeton Baptist Medical Center
Mustafa Ahmed, M.D., Medical Director at the Structural Heart and Valve Center at Princeton Baptist Medical Center
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Rusty Richardson knew that this verse had been weighing on him, but he didn’t know why. It drew him in, and he found himself repeating it and studying it for most of 2016. Little did Rusty know that God had bigger plans for him, or how true to his life this verse would be.
Rusty is a well-known face in Jasper, Alabama. He owns Bernard’s Store for Men, a popular men’s store in downtown Jasper, and he is proud of the hard work he has put into the store over the years. He maintains a busy lifestyle, so when he had a deadly “Widow Maker” heart attack in August, 2016, his world came to a halt.
It was a Thursday, during his daily morning walk, when Rusty noticed that something didn’t feel quite right. He had a strange tightness in his chest that went up to his jaw, but it disappeared before his walk was over. Thinking nothing of it, he went about his day, but then the feeling was back the next morning.
“Friday morning as I was walking, the pain got worse and worse. It wasn’t what I would consider chest pain, but I knew something was wrong and that I needed to get home. At one point I just was praying, ‘Lord, let me get back home,’” said Rusty. Once home, he told his wife what he had felt, and she convinced him to go to the doctor.
When Rusty arrived at the emergency room, it was quickly determined that he had experienced a heart attack. The physician on-call placed two stents to clear the path to Rusty’s heart, but also noticed Rusty’s left anterior descending artery had a 99% blockage. His case was so complex the medical team decided to wait until Dr. Alain Bouchard, cardiologist at Princeton Baptist Medical Center and Rusty’s cardiologist of almost 20 years, could examine him before doing any more.
On Monday, Dr. Bouchard called Rusty and told him that he needed to be examined immediately due to the complex and dangerous nature of his heart disease and to treat the remaining bloackage in his left anterior descending artery – the so called “widow maker.”
By Wednesday, Rusty was with Dr. Bouchard and Dr. Mustafa Ahmed, head of the Structural Heart and Valve Center at Princeton Baptist Medical Center. They decided to place a new type of stent in Rusty’s heart; a dissolvable, or bioresorbable stent. Stents are placed to keep the arteries open after a heart attack, but over time, most arteries will adjust to the new opening, making the stent device no longer needed. Dissolvable stents are new to the market and when clinically recommended, may be a good alternative to a traditional metallic stent. Rusty’s stent will dissolve in two to three years, once his heart and arteries are recovered from the heart attack.
“The biggest benefit to this device is it allows the artery to return to its normal physiology,” says Dr. Bouchard. “In addition, it allows patients to avoid long-term use of anti-coagulant medications like Plavix, which can cause bleeding complications. All that’s needed once the stent dissolves is a little aspirin to maintain heart health.”
“I remember lying on the table and hearing Dr. Ahmed say, ‘Beautiful, it’s perfect!’ Dr. Ahmed is a very special doctor. He’s an unbelievably talented physician. All of the physicians are fantastic. They went out of their way to explain everything and give us the best possible treatment plan. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
And the best part? Rusty was back to work the next Monday, just over a week after his heart attack, and five days after the surgery to place his dissolvable stent. He hasn’t missed a day of work since, and he’s back to his daily walks.
“Now I take my medicine, get exercise, eat right, and live my life. It was such a good and humbling experience and I am very thankful to be alive. It’s thanks to these physicians and to God that I am back to my life again. Before I had this problem, I had been praying Psalm 51:10, which is ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’ I prayed it over and over and over, and it didn’t hit me until later, that the Lord has created a clean heart in me and renewed me.”