Charles Eavenson's Story - Walla Walla, WA cardiac care

After heart attack, fast treatment at Providence St. Mary saves a life

Charles Eavenson never had any problems with his heart. Until he suffered a heart attack.

That’s the day Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Wash., saved his life by opening a blocked artery within 12 minutes of his arrival. That treatment window is called “door-to-balloon” time, and Providence St. Mary’s time is one of the fastest in the state.

Charles says he’s still marveling at how quickly the cardiac team at St. Mary Heart and Vascular Center performed angioplasty in the face of his life-threatening situation.

For Charles, 57, that day started out like any other. The lifelong cowboy was out checking on his horses in rural North Powder, Ore., when he experienced telltale symptoms of a heart attack.

“He just grabbed his chest, he couldn’t get his breath and then he doubled over,” says his wife, Norma.

With a population of less than 500, North Powder is a speck of a town in northeastern Oregon with no hospital. Providence St. Mary, 110 miles away in southeastern Washington, offered the emergency cardiac care Charles needed.

The Eavensons met an air ambulance at the local football field for the trip to St. Mary, where the cardiac team whisked Charles into the heart catheterization lab.The Eavensons met an air ambulance at the local football field for the trip to St. Mary, where the cardiac team whisked Charles into the heart catheterization lab. Within 12 minutes, Dr. Lisa Abrahams, an interventional cardiologist, had performed a balloon angioplasty to open the blocked artery and increase blood flow to Charles’ heart. Next, Dr. Abrahams inserted a stent to keep the artery open.

“A half an hour later, I was in my hospital bed,” Charles says. “Dr. Abrahams is one fantastic person. I cannot say enough about the staff and the care I received. If there’s an emergency, Providence St. Mary is where I want to go.”

In addition to having one of the fastest heart attack treatment times in the state, Providence St. Mary is the only Level 1 Cardiac Center in Walla Walla, with interventional cardiologists available around the clock to treat heart attacks caused by blockages. That’s important because the faster you can undergo angioplasty, the less chance of extensive damage to your heart and the faster you will recover.

The Eavensons say it’s not just the swift, life-saving treatment that they appreciated. It’s also St. Mary’s compassion.

“The chaplain came by, they let my wife stay in the room with me and they gave her meal vouchers,” Charles says. “They took as good care of her as they did of me. We are so thankful for that.”

“You’re so scared, and then they were so grand to me,” says Norma. “There’s no other place that could be nearly as helpful as they were.”

Learn more about the St. Mary Heart and Vascular Center and meet its cardiology team.