A Johnston City man believes he owes his life to a recent collaboration between cardiologists from Heartland Regional Medical Center and St. Louis University School of Medicine.
"See that yard out there?" said Bob Gentry, pointing a small patch of grass. "It usually takes about 10 minutes to cut it. But the last time it took me over an hour."
Gentry, an active 71-year-old who said he has never been sick, began experiencing nausea, shortness of breath, and becoming light-headed during any physical activity.
"I went to my doctor and did a stress test," he said, noting the results were "fine."
When the symptoms continued, Green's friend, Jerry Kee, urged him to make an appointment with his "heart doctor," Dr. Mwansa, at Marion's Heartland Regional Medical Center.
Gentry's girlfriend, Lisa Dirks, said Kee's urging literally saved Gentry's life.
"He was a walking time bomb," she said. "He went in for the catheterization and they immediately airlifted him to St. Louis."
That was on Sept. 14.
Just four days earlier, Kee also talked Gentry into securing life flight insurance from a mailer Gentry had been "tossing away" for months.
Because of the reciprocal agreement between the two medical facilities, Gentry was immediately routed to the specialists at SLU's Center for Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care.
While Dirks and Gentry's youngest daughter, Lori, drove to St. Louis, his older daughter Lisa met her dad at the hospital.
"They started doing tests and said they were scheduling the surgery for Monday," said Gentry. He said at that point his family was unsure he was in the best place for treatment.
That was when Dr. Dawn Hui stepped in.
"She sat right down on the bed and explained everything so that a 10-year-old could understand it," said Gentry. Dirks agreed. "She explained that he was stable and they were doing procedures to ensure there were no other blockages or problems with his other organs," she said.
Dirks said what impressed her about the team at SLU was their dedication to finding the best options to ensure he wouldn't need more surgery.
Gentry ended up having a triple-bypass to correct blockages of 90, 80, and 50 percent plus "re-routing" an artery that could not repaired.
Gentry and Dirks both also had praise for the ICU nursing team who not only "instantly responded" to Gentry's needs, but also showed concern for Dirks' comfort.
"One nurse even came down on her own to check on Bob when he was moved to a regular room," said Dirks.
Herby Voss, director of marketing, public relations, and business development at HRMC said the collaboration with SLU as well as River to River Heart Group, allows "difficult cardiac cases an advanced continuum of treatment.
"For more than a year now our elite team of cardiologists, Dr. Victor Mwansa, Dr. Lovely Chhabra and Dr. Hashim Gazi, has been collaborating with their colleagues at the Center for Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Because of this new affiliation, our cardiology team has gained access to a wealth of knowledge and cutting edge resources," he said.
Kee said he felt "completely comfortable" recommending Mwansa.
"He had another doctor in Eldorado that told him it was his lungs," said Kee.
Gentry worked in the coal mines for nearly three decades and he explained his physician felt his trouble was due to Black Lung.
"I told him, "Bob, that's not your lungs, it's your heart,'" said Kee. "He was having trouble breathing and couldn't bend over. It was just like mine."
Kee, who underwent a quadruple bypass in Springfield after an initial diagnosis by Mwansa, was matter-of-fact.
"Apparently, I was right," he said.
Kee's own experience with Mwansa was more than positive.
"I went to him for a check about three weeks after my surgery," he said. "He put me in a wheelchair and he himself pushed me to admitting, waited, and then took me to ICU and told them what he wanted done."
According to Kee, his lung was damaged during surgery and Mwansa's quick action saved him, too.
"That's the big reason I recommended him to Bob," he said.
Looking at Gentry hop around showing off the collection of automobiles he loves to work on, it's hard to believe that just a few months ago he was literally at death's doorstep.
"There's no doubt out patients are benefitting directly from the partnership," said Voss.