Without a community health centre, where would Mike be?

Perhaps better than anyone, Mike Devine can appreciate the value of having a community health centre like Horizon’s Neguac Health Centre.

Mike, who’s 71-years old today, believes if he hadn’t gone to the health centre, on the recommendation of his pharmacist, that he would not be alive to tell his story.

It was July 9, 2018. Mike had, what he describes as a spell. It passed, then the next morning, he went to talk to his pharmacist.

“I went to get my pressure checked and she told me to go see my doctor,” he said. “I broke out in sweats, was sick to my stomach, my chest was on fire and my jaw was aching.”

Mike’s family physician, Dr. Adrien Melanson, works out of Horizon’s Neguac Health Centre three days per week. He called to make an appointment, but Dr. Melanson wasn’t available. But he was able to get in to see Dr. Lauza Picard.

“I explained everything to her and as soon as I mentioned having a jaw ache, she said she wanted me to go to the hospital right away,” he said.

Mike made the approximate 10-minute drive back to his home in Lagacéville, had a shower and headed to Horizon’s Miramichi Regional Hospital (MRH), an approximate 40-minute drive.

“They hooked me up to the machines, did bloodwork right away and came back and told me I wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.

He was admitted and told he’d had a mild heart attack. They wanted to keep a close eye on him until they could get him to the New Brunswick Heart Centre at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital for a dye test.

“I was at the Miramichi hospital for five days, it was a bit frustrating, but at the end of the day, my frustration was nothing,” Mike said. “I know I was waiting because they were helping sick people down at the heart centre.”

After five days, Mike was transported by ambulance to the heart centre. The following day, Dr. Jaroslav Hubacek, an interventional cardiologist, performed a coronary angiogram (a dye test), which identified the cause of Mike’s heart attack.

“It was caused by long blockages with 60, 90 and 60 per cent narrowing in the artery at the back of the heart (circumflex artery),” he said.

Dr. Hubacek said the blockages in circumflex artery were treated with an angioplasty and stent.

“Furthermore, the tiny artery on the right side (right coronary artery) was found to be completely blocked, but the occlusion occurred gradually, and the body created its own natural bypasses.”

Dr. Hubacek said in Mike’s case, the blockage of this tiny vessel and other minor narrowings were best treated by medications, since they were not in the range where any intervention was required.

“It will be important for Mike to lead as healthy a lifestyle as possible, controlling his risk factors to decrease the probability of those narrowings getting worse,” Dr. Hubacek said.

After his procedure, Mike stayed at the heart centre for one more night before returning back to him home in Lagacéville.

“But I wasn’t afraid for a second because the nurses at the heart centre are incredible,” Mike said. “I never worried for an ounce of time when I was there. They were so attentive and professional. In Saint John and in Miramichi.”

Dr. Melanson arranged for a checkup soon after he returned home.

“When a patient is released from the hospital, they’re told they need to see their family doctor within a week,” said Dr. Melanson. “The most important thing we can do in a small community is provide access to care on a pretty expeditious basis.”

When Mike thinks back to July 2018, he said if it wasn’t for the Neguac Health Centre, he might not be here today. While his family physician wasn’t available that day, he was able to get in to see Dr. Picard almost immediately.

“We’re so lucky here in this country, especially New Brunswick. We are so well looked after,” Mike said. “But I will say, if something like this ever happens again, I’m going to call an ambulance.”