SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — At 46, Charles Jones had a massive heart attack while camping in rural Kentucky.
That was in 2001. After a series of surgeries, Jones was still at risk for another heart attack.
"When I had my heart attack, my heart went without oxygen so long that all the muscles at the bottom of my heart died," said Jones, of Union City, Tenn. "My doctors felt I was a high risk for my heart to get out of rhythm, so after four stents didn't hold up, they sent me for a test and I qualified to get this new device."
On Feb. 6, Jones, 58, became Mississippi's first patient to receive a subcutaneous implantable cardiac defibrillator, the S-ICD.
This type of heart procedure was also a first for Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, where the surgery was performed.
"This surgery shows that Baptist-DeSoto is at the forefront of cardiology in Northern Mississippi. We are trying to lead the way by providing our patients with new leases on life with this new technology," said Dr. Chris Ingelmo, a cardiologist with Stern Cardiovascular Foundation who was recruited by the hospital to do the defibrillator surgery in Mississippi and also at Baptist in Tennessee.
The S-ICD was approved in 2012 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The small, battery-powered device is implanted under the skin on the left side of the chest near the rib cage. It differs from the standard defibrillators because with the S-ICD, no electrodes or wires, called leads, are inserted into the heart.
Current defibrillators are effective and are still used, but the new device decreases serious risk for patients, Ingelmo said.
"The subcutaneous ICD has no parts that actually touch the heart," Ingelmo said. "There is no need for vascular access. The wire goes underneath your skin to the front of your chest. So you eliminate the long-term complications of problems with infections."
Dr. Ari Szatkowski, a cardiologist also with Stern, added that the standard defibrillators are difficult to implant in some patients and, in such cases, the new device could be used.
"For some patients with dialysis or breast cancer, it is very difficult to get the devices implanted, so this new device is of great benefit to those patients that qualify for it," Szatkowski said.
Jones was screened for the new device and qualified for the procedure because his age and his weakened heart muscles ruled out the traditional defibrillator.
"This device will prevent him from having complications down the road," Ingelmo said. "If he has an arrhythmia or a fast heartbeat, the new device will shock him back to life."
Hollye Jones, Jones' wife of 36 years, was happy that he had the surgery that took an hour and a half. The next day, Jones was sent home.
"It will provide him a new lease on life because we know that sometime during his life he is very likely to have an event where his heart would go out of rhythm. And if he didn't have the defibrillator that would be the end, so it does provide him with that protection," Ingelmo said.
The device will last about 20 years and will have to have its battery replaced in five to six years.
From his hometown of Union City, about two hours from Memphis, Jones, who looks like Santa with his big beard, said in a telephone interview that he was still a bit sore from the surgery but otherwise felt fine.
The avid outdoorsman, who retired from the Goodyear Tire plant after 30 years, said a plus of the surgery is that he still gets to go hunting and his health is improving.
But there are four bigger reasons he had the surgery.
"My grandkids," he said about his grandson and three granddaughters, who range in age from 2 to 9. "I'm trying to be with them for as long and as much as possible."
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com