As you know, this month is heart month. It’s a time where a focus is placed on our hearts and their health, but at Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, they’re focused on hearts every day of the year. CCMH and its Heart and Vascular Center in Lawton is the only comprehensive heart program in southwest Oklahoma. They can take care of everything – including open-heart surgery at the hospital.

Dr. Assam Saliba, a cardiologist at the Heart and Vascular Center, also referred to as HVC, has been in Lawton for more than 20 years now.

“When I came, we were four cardiologists,” he said. “And we ended up starting HVC, which is where we are right now. We started it in 2005, and we moved in 2006.”

He said they now have nine cardiologists. Three were added just in the past two years.

“We keep expanding,” Dr. Saliba said. “And we have plans to expand further. Not only physically but also we have plans to expand specialties and add more to this community where patients don’t have to travel, but rather to find every aspect of cardiovascular care right here, in southwest Oklahoma, at Comanche.”

Dr. Saliba said over the years, he’s seen advances in cardiovascular medicine.

“When I came here, we had non-drug eluding stints,” he said. “Later on, we started putting drug-eluting stints, which cut back on what we call restenosis. Which means the ability of the body to fight off the stint and clot it.”

He said they used to keep patients on anticoagulation, but as time went on, the stints became smaller and more powerful.

“And the newest stint we put less medication on there, it doesn’t clog as much,” Dr. Saliba said. “But at the same time, we can stop anticoagulation after three months. Not all anticoagulation but what we call dual platelets.”

Another thing he has seen change is pacemakers.

“What we do, we put this directly into the heart,” he said. “So we go from the groin instead of putting a pacemaker into the pectoral region and connect it to the heart with two wires. This one, we go and plant this straight into the heart, and the patient goes home a few hours later.”

Dr. Saliba said besides getting smaller, the battery is also lasting longer, which means it doesn’t have to be changed as often.

“It’s just great,” he said. “It’s a nice feeling to be able to help your patient not have to do more and more not to have to put them through more procedures, not to give them more pain, more discomfort.”