The power of collaboration

Merle Hastings and Bev Rustad, Winneshiek Medical Center registered nurse.
Merle Hastings, a heart attack patient, benefitted from Winneshiek Medical Center's relationship with Mayo Clinic Helath System.

“It all started with chest pains at home one evening – they were worse than any heartburn I’d ever had,” says Merle Hastings of Calmar. “I am not one to initiate medical care, but after I had been complaining a bit, my wife pointedly asked if I wanted to go the emergency department…and I did.”

Once at the Winneshiek Medical Center Emergency Department, the emergency team administered clot-busting medication to prevent any further damage to Merle’s heart. After the initial stabilization, the physician ordered an EKG to determine the cause of the pains.

“The EKG came back clear – it did not show the readings of a heart attack. But the medical team was not satisfied and they admitted me for the night,” says Merle.

After careful observation through the overnight, nurses prepared Merle for an early morning CT scan to help determine a diagnosis. “My physician on the hospital floor was in consultation with cardiologists at Mayo Clinic. The CT scan was canceled after the Mayo Clinic cardiologists recommended I be transferred by ambulance to Saint Marys in Rochester.”

Through Winneshiek Medical Center’s relationship with Mayo Clinic Health System, physicians in Decorah collaborate with experts at Mayo Clinic and throughout the 70-site system to determine the best care for patients. Merle directly benefitted from the combined expertise of local care and specialized physicians. “My transfer up to Saint Marys was absolutely seamless. The Winneshiek Medical Center ambulance brought me to their emergency department and from there I went directly to a hospital room. My cardiology team was ready to care for me when I arrived.”

Soon after his arrival, Mayo Clinic cardiologists performed a minimally invasive procedure to determine Merle’s diagnosis. Merle says, “It was amazing – but I had no pain with this procedure and was fully awake the entire time.”

The cardiologists found a partial blockage, and prepared Merle for a procedure to place a stent in his artery to open up the blockage. Merle says, “After they put in the stent, I spent a short time in the recovery room, and then returned to my hospital room.” The next morning, Merle along with his wife and medical team, discussed his care. “Following a few final tests, my wife drove me home, and I had virtually no recovery period,” says Merle.

The cardiologists recommended Merle enroll in the cardiac rehab program at Winneshiek Medical Center. He says, “The local cardiac rehab staff called me soon after I returned home to set up my personalized rehabilitation.” Merle also arranged to follow up with his primary care physician – Paul Wenner, M.D. – who could manage his care locally. “In addition to seeing Dr. Wenner at Winneshiek Medical Center,” says Merle, “I was able to see my Mayo Clinic cardiologist right here in Decorah. He comes to Decorah throughout the month to care for patients. I appreciate not having to travel to Rochester to see specialists.”

Of his experience, Merle says, “The connection Winneshiek Medical Center has to Mayo Clinic is noticeable and makes it easier for the patient.” He adds, “I am thankful this kind of care was available to me when I needed it.”