A New Cath Lab is Saving Lives in Clay County

It looked like a hopeless case – a 53-year-old patient was brought to Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County after a motorcycle accident. He was clinging to life and suffering a pulmonary embolism – a life-threatening condition caused by a blockage in the arteries. 

But the care team at Ascension St. Vincent was able to pull massive blood clots from his lung that saved his life and allowed the patient to make a full recovery. And it’s all thanks to Ascension St. Vincent’s donors.

Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County is celebrating the opening of their third cardiac catheterization laboratory – a space that allows medical professionals to do more to save lives in the region. 

The new space was formally recognized with a blessing and dedication ceremony attended by staff, donors and the community Wednesday, Dec. 13. 

A Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, or “cath lab” for short, is a facility where doctors can perform tests and procedures to treat patients suffering from cardiovascular issues. 

The cath lab is a full-functioning cardiac resuscitation center – the department specializes in procedures of the heart and blood vessels and provides diagnostic data as well as life-saving interventions. 

Some of the procedures done at the cath lab include STEMIs, which treat life-threatening heart attacks; cardiac catheterizations, which diagnose and treat heart disease or the clogging of the heart’s blood supply vessels; pacemaker placement, to help maintain a regular heart rate and rhythm; and cardiac shock wave therapy, which breaks up calcium that has built up within the walls of the blood vessel and heart. 

The facility at Clay County started with two smaller cath labs, and each expansion has allowed the professionals at Ascension St. Vincent’s to do more. 

The third cath lab at Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County is a game changer for residents in need of cardiac care. Thanks to the generosity of Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation donors, Clay County is doing more cardiology procedures than ever before.  

“We are a rural hospital acting like a city hospital,” Polly Curole, director of surgical services at Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County, said. “When you’re seeing one of your patients, you’re taking care of a community member – someone you see at the grocery store or at church.”

The cath lab features cutting edge technology that saves lives including Phillips X-ray systems, intravascular ultrasounds and large touch screens that make it easy for doctors and teammates to work. There are also large booms overhead that allow nurses to hook up everything from oxygen to anesthesia. There is also a new storage room that makes it easier to keep supplies stocked. 

Doctors are able to put in pacemakers, defibrillators and heart catheters with ease. “We are quickly becoming a one-stop shop,” Amanda “Kelly” Schnur, nursing manager at Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County, said. 

A new cath lab means more room for patients – and the team that is working diligently to save their lives. “Anything heart-related – we can take care of it,” Curole said. 

The team has been doing outreach to the community to let them know all that can be done at Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County – and the result has been that emergency services are bringing more patients to the hospital for care. 

“We see patients from Keystone Heights and Starke,” Curole said. “Jacksonville is so far away for them.”

Curole says it’s important that Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County is keeping patients close to home – it helps to build a sense of community for the people the hospital serves. 

“It’s very exciting for Clay County,” Curole said. “And it wouldn’t happen without our donors.”