Heart gala raises awareness while supporting patients

Angela and Ben Thompson chat during the Blessing Heart of Our Community Gala at the Oakley-Lindsay Center on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. The annual gala raises awareness for heart disease and funds for the Heart and Vascular Fund at the Blessing Foundation. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 16, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY — Red was visible throughout the Oakley-Lindsay Center on Saturday, serving as a visual reminder for heart health awareness.

The hundreds attending the Heart of Our Community Gala helped support the unmet needs of patients through the Blessing Foundation.

Maureen Kahn, president and CEO of the Blessing Health System, said that help could mean assisting with the cost of medications or a procedure.

"No matter what the cause is, this community is always willing and able to step up and help," Kahn said.

She said the gala's goal is to raise awareness of the disease and the lives that it takes each year in the community and communities across the country.

"And as women, we're all wearing red just to remind women that it's striking us, and we kind of underestimate the signs and symptoms of heart disease," she said.

The establishment of the Blessing Heart and Vascular Center in 2004 has sought to improve awareness of heart disease as well as provide treatment options locally.

"They don't have to go away," Kahn said of patients. "It's all here, local. They can get this care local. We can do their open-heart surgery here. We can put stents in here."

One area of growth of cardiac care at Blessing is the electrophysiology, or EP, lab.

Dr. John Hammock, a cardiologist with Blessing Physician Services, leads the EP lab, and he pointed to the growth it has seen since it launched in 2013.

"The first year I believe we did 15 to 20 procedures, and this past year we will have done over 200," Hammock said. "We are slated for this upcoming year to be doing close to 250, and we're looking for a second electrical specialist now."

Before Blessing opened the EP lab, patients had to travel to St. Louis or Springfield, Ill., for procedures.

Hammock said the EP lab continues to expand its outreach and capabilities, including offering the Watchman procedure, where a closure device is inserted in the left atrial appendage in order to help people with atrial fibrillation off blood thinners.

Blessing also added the TAVR procedure early this year that allows for aortic valve replacement via catheter. The procedure allows for patients to be released from the hospital within two days compared to four or five with traditional treatment.