Martha Atherton of Palatine fit right in last week at Northwest Community Hospital, wearing her monogrammed lab coat and mingling with all of the physicians and foundation members on hand.
Turns out, she was the center of attention at a dedication ceremony for the hospital's new hybrid cardiac catheterization lab, which begins treating patients this month. Atherton had pledged $1 million toward the project and, consequently, she was named the hospital's first doctor of philanthropy.
"My husband received good cardiac care here," said Atherton, who will turn 90 in July.
This was Atherton's second major gift to Northwest Community's cardiac program. In 2013, Atherton donated $500,000 toward creating an outpatient clinic for heart failure patients. That dream became reality and now is called the Atherton Heart Failure Clinic in Mount Prospect.
At last week's ceremony, the crowd of more than 75 acknowledged another lead donor, members of Midwest Anesthesia Partners, who also pledged $1 million toward the hospital's new hybrid cardiac lab.
"We look for ways we can partner with the hospital and the community for better health care," said Dr. Marco Fernandez, president of the anesthesiology group. "We never think of this as a community hospital. We do things here that big university hospitals do."
During a tour of the new lab, both Atherton and the anesthesiologists saw rooms in the suite named for them. The pre and postoperative care unit was named for the Northwest Anesthesiology Partners, while the hybrid cardiac cath lab was named for the Atherton Family.
Cardiologists on hand described it as a hybrid lab because of its capability to offer a combination cardiac cath lab and operating suite. The lab is designed to perform minimally invasive, advanced cardiac procedures, as well as endovascular interventions.
Bonnie DeGrande, executive director of cardiovascular services, said that currently the hospital has three cardiac cath labs, which serve 2,500 patients per year.
But for doctors to perform more structural repairs on the heart, they need to transport them up to an operating suite.
"Now, this has all the technology of a cath lab and the (operating room) component," DeGrande said. "We're able to provide the next stage in cardiac care right here."
One of those structural repairs they'll be able to provide is transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or the TAVR procedure. It's designed for patients with narrowing of the aortic valve -- due to aging, birth defect, rheumatic fever or radiation therapy -- and was performed on Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger last month.
"It's the crown jewel of a structural heart program, to be able to replace the aortic valve without doing open heart surgery," said Dr. Maen Nusair, interventional cardiologist and new medical director of the structural heart program.
Inside the new lab, Nusair described how the procedure would be done through a minimally invasive repair, leading patients to be up on their feet in a few hours and able to go home within a day or two.
"We are really at a point of time that is incredibly exciting for NCH," said Steve Scogna, president and CEO.
Hospital officials drew Nusair to lead the program after he had started a similar structural heart program in Vancouver, Washington.
"It was clear from day one of the deep level of commitment," Nusair said, "to serve the community and offer the therapies they need."
Dr. Paul Ruzumna, cardiac surgeon chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, has worked to bring a structural heart program to the hospital for the last four years, but he had to draw the involvement from the entire cardiology department, he said.
Already, they have 40 patients being assessed for the aortic valve replacement procedure, he added.
"We are able to do much more advanced technology than we could ever do before," Ruzumna said. "This is sophisticated, it's cutting edge."