Covington County Hospital Was Close By for Nurse's Close Call with Critical Emergency

"I didn't think anything was wrong," says Melissa Sanford-Gilmore. Because she is an asthmatic and works as a home health nurse caring for several patients who also had respiratory illness, she told her healthcare provider, "I just have a horrible cold."

She was treated with a steroid and antibiotics. That was Thursday. By Friday evening her chest felt even tighter.

"My daughter was spending the weekend with her daddy. So Saturday I'm home alone and I started having shortness of breath and chest pains," she continued. "I took two breathing treatments and I still feel tightness and shortness of breath."

Thinking it was an asthma attack, she called her mother to say she was driving herself to Covington County Hospital for treatment. Dr. Larry Gibson, an emergency department physician, thought it might be anxiety or something else, but Melissa insisted it was her asthma. She received another breathing treatment.

"And then it hit me…like an elephant sitting on my chest. Dr. Gibson said 'I think you're having a heart attack," Melissa recounted. "They did an EKG and my heart rate was going from 150 to 200 beats. They started the protocol for myocardial infarction, giving me medications to reduce my heart rate and get me stabilized. They were trying to wait for lab results, but Dr. Gibson said 'we're not waiting. She's going straight to Forrest General."

Previously having worked at a critical access hospital similar to Covington County for nine years, Melissa knew she was in serious trouble.

"Being an ER nurse for as long as I had been, I really didn't think I was going to make it as far as Forrest General. With a heart rate like that, I've just seen too many people give out. I was thinking I was going to crash."

She was trying to remain calm for her distraught parents who came to the hospital, and asked the nurses to let her call her five-year-old daughter.

"To hold the phone to let me talk to my baby. I will never be able to thank them enough for that. They treated me with kindness and grace. They went above and beyond. I wish I could have everything done at Covington County Hospital," says Melissa.

After three days at Forrest General, it was found that Melissa did not experience a true heart attack. She was diagnosed with esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus that can include symptoms such as shortness of breath and intense chest pain the same as coronary artery disease.

What stays in Melissa's mind is that if she hadn't gone to Covington County Hospital first, she would have died.

"I was there in eight minutes and within one hour they had me stabilized and transferred. I will never forget that," says Melissa. "A person can't sustain a heart rate of 200. It would have taken me 35 minutes to drive to Forrest General. That's a long time to do damage to your heart when you have a community hospital that has the capability to save lives."

Her message to the community is that when seconds count, you can count on Covington County Hospital. A critical access facility, Covington County Hospital is dedicated to exceeding your expectations with the expert medical staff and technology to provide critical quality care and to get you stabilized fast, right here in your hometown.