In Depth with Brad Byrd: A nurses legacy

In Depth with Brad Byrd

The Executive Director of the the Deaconess Heart Hospital will retire, leaving behind a legacy.

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Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth. Consider this: a loved one suffers a heart attack, and is taken to the hospital, stays there for a week, maybe two, is sent home to either live or die. That was the reality for millions of Americans and their families when I was growing up. I can still remember my grandfather as he was in an oxygen tent. But times have fortunately changed. And joining me tonight is Becky Malotte, Executive Director of the Deaconess Heart Hospital. Becky is retiring and leaves behind quite a legacy. And Becky, you’ve been involved with being a provider for 46 years.

Becky Malotte: Yea, that’s amazing, isn’t it?

Brad Byrd: And what inspired you to do that?

Becky Malotte: Growing up I heard stories of my grandmother having had a heart attack when she was 40 years old. And my mother coming home from IU to help take care of her. And the stories went on to talk about how she was put in bed for 8 weeks, fed baby food, but she survived that and lived to over 100. I guess that inspired me to go into nursing and to take a path in the care of heart patients.

Brad Byrd: And things really started to change in the late 1970s as far as the technology is concerned with this.

Becky Malotte: Pretty much. We began here in Evansville with the first cardiologist, the first cath lab, Dr. Tom White came to Evansville and that really began the evolution of more aggressive care and treatment of people with a heart problem. That was followed then a few years later by Jack Ensboro and the first open heart program here in Evansville. And I was blessed to be in the middle of all that as all that history was being made.

Brad Byrd: That was quite an invasive surgery, but it was life-saving surgery in so many cases. And just last week I had from the Heart Hospital, Dr. Dominic Cefali who is a Thoracic Surgeon, he basically showed us a relatively new procedure in our area, and I’ll say for short TAVR procedure, basically a heart valve replacement or repair. And I think we have some animation; there it is right there. And why is this so special? It’s still so unbelievable that they can do this. What’s happening?

Becky Malotte: We’re learning that things that repair the heart that we used to have to do by cutting open the chest and opening it up and surgically replacing it. Now, we can take a catheter, up through the groin like we do a cardiac cath, and repair valves in a very effective way. And even patients, who are not good surgical risk for open heart surgery, are candidates for this type of procedure like TAVR. That technology is growing as we speak. And so I think the future is very exciting for more procedures that are going to be able to be done transcatheter.

Brad Byrd: And I found out after the fact, I knew he had surgery for a heart issue, Mick Jagger had that procedure done.

Becky Malotte: He did.

Brad Byrd: And he’s rocking on the stage once again.

Becky Malotte: Very much rocking on the stage. It was first approved for patients who were high-risk, but now we’re seeing moderate risk and this is the direction that the technology and care is gonna go overall.

Brad Byrd: And things happen so fast in today’s world, and the survival rate and getting back to somewhat a normal life. People usually get dismissed from the hospital what a day or two after this procedure?

Becky Malotte: Yes. For TAVR, we typically have the patient up walking in four hours after their procedure, and they go home the next morning. So, the recovery time is very short. And many of them truly experience a dramatic impact of their symptoms. They’re less short of breath. They’re able to walk without having to stop and sit down, so it’s very remarkable.

Brad Byrd: And heart disease is still the number one killer in this country. And certainly the technology and the doctors and the nurses are prolonging lives, but the numbers we lose is still too high. Why is that in your opinion?

Becky Malotte: Well, I think we still have a lot of lifestyle issues that we really haven’t gotten our arms around as a nation. We’ve got pockets of geographic areas that are more healthy than others, but right here in our own community we still have a tremendous amount of obesity, people who don’t exercise, high blood pressure, the silent killer. All of those things that take their toll on the body. And so, I think the other piece is we all tend to deny that something could happen to us.

Brad Byrd: And our technology is so advance right now. The Heart to Heart mission in the Dominican Republic … I’m going to roll some quick video here … and this is led by Dr. Lee Wagmeister. But what struck me as amazing by this is that in the Dominican Republic it’s almost the way we were how people are treated due to the technology 40 or 50 years ago.

Becky Malotte: Yeah, when our team went over there two years ago, they came back with exactly as you say they felt like they were going back in time. But truly the people there were so appreciative, and the team learned a lot about how we could do things differently. And we’re going back. We’re going back this Fall and doing another mission trip to the Dominican and do heart valve surgery.

Brad Byrd: Well, Becky, thank you so much for doing everything you have done in the fight against heart disease. I know that you’re retiring, but then again not quite retiring.

Becky Malotte: I’m not moving away from the Tri-State, so I will continue to be involved in a lot of efforts into fighting heart disease.

Brad Byrd: Alright. Becky Malotte, the executive director for now at the Deaconess Heart Hospital. Thank you once again for being with us tonight.

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(This story was originally published on July 22, 2019)

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