Kona Man Receives a "Lucky" Second Chance at Life
Since November 2010, Island Heart Care has provided Hawaii’s first program offering Enhanced External Counterpulsation, EECP® therapy in Kailua-Kona, and just in time for heart patient Francis “Lucky” Shafer.
A native to American Samoa, Lucky moved to the Hawaiian Islands in 1953 at age 9 when his father was assigned to build structures at Kalaupapa. Sadly Lucky’s mother, a descendant of Samoa’s highest ruling chief , died at age 42 of a heart attack while living on Molokai. Despite his family history of heart disease Lucky lived an exciting and active life. After moving to the Islands in the 1960’s he quickly joined the big wave surfers at Waimea Bay, worked as a polynesian entertainer in the Ester Williams show & other reviews in Waikiki, studied karate and flew as a pilot for the Civil Air Patrol.
While Married with 2 children living in Kailua-Kona, Lucky’s family history caught up with him. At age 42, the same age that his mother suffered a fatal heart attack, Lucky experienced his first chest pain. He recalls that day, “ I was operating a back-hoe when it came on. All of a sudden I had paralyzing chest pain. Like nothing I had felt before.I knew it was serious.” He was rushed to the hospital where the doctors determined he was having a heart attack. Lucky was quickly life-flighted to Queen’s Medical Center where he underwent a procedure to place a stent in the coronary artery that had previously been blocked. The procedure proved to be a success until 2006 when symptoms returned. After careful evaluation and diagnosis of a second heart attack, Lucky underwent a quadruple bypass surgery. The surgery saved his life, however symptoms returned again becoming progressively worse. As a result of two heart attacks, Lucky was suffering with symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure. The heart attacks had weakened his heart muscle creating problems like shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling in the legs & body.
“A friend had noticed I wasn’t doing well at Karate Class and pulled me aside. She told me about the new treatment in Kona, EECP. I am so thankful that Dr. Arrington referred me for EECP treatment and consultation with Cardiologist Dr. Wohl,” said the heart patient.
Enhanced External Counterpulsation, EECP, is a safe, non-invasive procedure that can help over-come heart disease. EECP® is administered in 35-outpatient sessions. There is virtually no recovery time, and the treatments are comfortable for patients. EECP® therapy utilizes three sets of blood pressure-like cuffs wrapped around the legs and hips that inflate and deflate with the patient’s heartbeat, increasing blood flow and oxygen to the heart while stimulating growth of new blood vessels. This technique increases blood flow to the heart and strengthens the circulation without stents or bypass surgery.
Lucky speaks of his experience with EECP Therapy, “As soon as the first session started I could see EECP was going to help. Each day I felt better and better. Over the next 7 weeks of treatment, the swelling in my legs was reduced, I lost 50 lbs, my shortness of breath went away and energy returned. EECP has been a miracle for me. Before I started I new I was in trouble. No joke, my first words to the EECP Nurse April Johnson were ‘Please help me.’ Because I was scared my ‘Luck’ had run out.”
Lucky has completed a course of EECP therapy. Follow up consultation and repeat diagnostic testing with Dr. Wohl showed a measurable increase in the strength & function of Lucky’s heart muscle. “ His improvement was remarkable” said Armand Wohl, MD FACC Medical Director of Island Heart Care. “After completing a course of EECP® therapy many patients are once again able to engage in an exercise program, participate in activities of daily living, enjoy social activities, and benefits last for over two years in a majority of patients.”
Today, Lucky is passionate about taking advantage of his second chance at life. He’s back to daily exercise, running his concrete pumping business, and cruising Alii Drive in his 1927 Model T Hot Rod. Lucky has even returned to the Advanced Kempo Karate System program as an assistant instructor working with the local Keiki.
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New Cutting-Edge Athletic Recovery Program
for Triathletes in Kailua Kona
Island Heart Care offers the first Performance & Athletic Recovery Program utilizing Enhanced External Counterpulsation, EECP® therapy on the Big Island of Hawaii, and not a second too late for Ironman hopefuls.
After years of clinical experience in treating cardiac patients with EECP, an athletic training program emerged. While massage, compression stockings, ice baths and nutritional supplements have become familiar methods of recovery to athletes, the PAR (Performance & Athletic Recovery) program accelerates recovery time in athletes following the most challenging training routines or sports events.
“When my second run of the day felt easier than the first, I knew EECP was helping,” said Kailua-Kona Professional Triathlete Bree Wee.
There is virtually no recovery time following EECP, and the treatments are relatively comfortable. EECP® therapy utilizes three sets of blood pressure-like cuffs wrapped around the legs, thighs & hips that apply muscular compression. Athletes can listen to music, read or even sleep during EECP therapy. Athletes can elect to receive EECP only after intensive training. However, most athletes receive 1-3 one hour sessions per week during the training season.
Unlike the familiar Normatec pneumatic compression device used by professional, college and Olympic athletes, EECP is timed with the athlete’s heartbeat delivering a substantial pulse at the precise time while the heart is relaxing. The process flushes away lactic acid build up while increasing blood and lymph flow throughout the entire body and vital organs. These effects provide the athlete with a quick and complete recovery.
“EECP is a transformative technology that has a proven track record in cardiac rehabilitation ,” said Michael Traub, ND medical director of Lokahi Health Center in Kailua Kona. “Most of what I prescribe to triathletes is about RECOVERY...and how to go about speeding it up. Without speeding recovery up, you will never speed up. And those who put the 'very' in recovery will always beat those who do not. EECP is one of the very best ways I know to do this.”
The Big Island is home to not only the Ironman World championship course but to top triathletes. With help from the PAR program, athletes looking to compete in the upcoming Ironman 70.3 (Honu) race June 4, 2011 or the Ironman World Championship in October could hold the competitive edge needed to perform better than ever. Director of Operations at Island Heart Care, April Johnson, is passionate in athletes, local and visiting, have access to the center, ”We couldn’t be more excited to support our community of local and visiting triathletes though the PAR program, and even more excited to see them in action.”
For more information, or to speak with Island Heart Care, please contact April Johnson at
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Island Heart Care Brings Non-Surgical Treatment
for Heart Disease to Kailua Kona
Island Heart Care has opened the first program to provide enhanced external counterpulsation, EECP® therapy on the Big Island of Hawaii.
While “bypass surgery” and “ angioplasty” have become familiar terms to most people, EECP® therapy, an established noninvasive treatment for heart disease such as angina and congestive heart failure, is a safe and effective treatment option to these invasive procedures and is covered by medicare, medicaid and most commercial carriers.
Patients with heart disease, such as angina/coronary artery disease and heart failure, can benefit from this established noninvasive treatment. Unlike angioplasty and bypass surgery, EECP® therapy is administered in outpatient sessions. There is virtually no recovery time, and the treatments are comfortable for patients. EECP® therapy utilizes three sets of blood pressure-like cuffs wrapped around the legs and buttocks that inflate and deflate with the patient’s heartbeat, increasing blood flow and oxygen to the heart and other organs while stimulating growth of new blood vessels. This process reduces or eliminates symptoms and decreases the need for medications in most patients.
“In the United States, more than seven million people suffer with angina or angina equivalent symptoms. Subsequently Hawaii County has the highest cardiovascular mortality rate in the state,” said Armand Wohl, MD FACC medical director of Island Heart Care in Kailua Kona.
“Studies indicate that in 75-80% of patients EECP® therapy may reduce or eliminate the frequency and intensity of symptoms, decrease the need for medications and significantly improve the recipient’s quality of life. After completing a course of EECP® therapy many patients are once again able to engage in an exercise program, actively participate in activities of daily living, enjoy social activities and these benefits last for over two years in a majority of patients.”
The Big Island has long battled a shortage of medical specialties and treatment facilities. Owner and Director of Operations at Island Heart Care, April Johnson, is passionate in seeing the situation change. “It’s time that the availability of healthcare in Hawaii improve. There‘s no reason the people of Hawaii shouldn’t have access to mainstream, mainland treatment options and technology. We’re starting with EECP® .”