Healthcare Success Stories

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Ignoring poor health–or pretending it doesn’t exist–is like putting a Band-aid on it. It’s a temporary solution to a real problem that could have dire consequences. Confronting such matters head-on could be the very thing to save your life.

And, you can’t put a price on a life saved. The doctors, nurses, technicians and staff members of any given hospital will be the first to tell you that. They attest to it everyday with the work they do. The long hours they put in. The people they help.

In this special section, we celebrate local doctors and healthcare professionals who dedicate themselves daily to saving Gwinnett residents from disease, sickness and ailments. Read on, and you’ll learn about some of the most talented healthcare professionals in Gwinnett and the people they helped.


Pushing Through A Painful Recovery
In his second year playing rugby for Mill Creek High School, Keaton Kurzeja injured his shoulder.

“The pain was excruciating. My shoulder would pop out of place randomly, and it was very difficult to sleep,” Keaton says. But he kept playing rugby, and soon completely tore the labrum.

When he couldn’t stand it anymore, his father rushed him to Northeast Georgia Medical Center where he met Dr. Darrell Scales, an orthopedics and sports medicine specialist.

“When I came in, they moved my arm around and before we even went to the MRI, (Dr. Scales) knew exactly what was wrong.”

Keaton later went in for surgery with Dr. Scales and woke up with a new shoulder.

“The whole staff is very nice, and they get you in and out quickly,” said Keaton. “It has been a blessing to have the surgery done so successfully.”

It will be a while before Keaton plays contact sports, but his shoulder is healing quicker than expected, and the young man is optimistic as he continues to heal.


A New Lease on Life
Scott Muir was hiking a trail in Alaska—on vacation more than 3,000 miles from home—when he felt chest pain. “I started sweating really badly. I was short of breath,” says Muir, a Lawrenceville resident with a wife and two kids. “I was struggling just to walk. It didn’t dawn on me it could be heart trouble.”

When he arrived back home, the issues got worse, interfering with his favorite pastime: playing baseball. “I finally said ‘I’m going to get this checked out.’”

Staff at Gwinnett Medical Center performed an EKG and admitted him to GMC’s Strickland Heart Center. After an emergency angiogram, doctors told Scott about a new procedure.

GMC Cardiologist Phillip Romm performed a chronic total occlusion procedure—a native coronary stenosis.

“Newer equipment has been developed to help cardiologists be able to go around blockages in the walls of blood vessels,” says Dr. Romm, adding that Scott was “a perfect patient” to have this procedure.

“It allows him to pursue normal activity and has increased his life span.”

For Scott, that means he gets to keep playing baseball and keep hiking those nature trails.


Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Dr. Elisha Poynter and husband, David, joined Eastside Medical Group in January with Loganville Family and Sports Medicine.

“We wanted to be a part of something that shared our values, and we found it at Eastside,” says Dr. Poynter.

Prior to joining Eastside, Dr. Poynter struggled with cycles of unhealthy habits during her pregnancies, and gained over 100 pounds for each child.

She wanted to be an active mom, so with the support of her husband she started dieting, exercising and counting calories.

Since Dr. Poynter lost the weight twice, she sympathizes with her patients battling with weight problems.

“A lot of people think, ‘If I could just get to my goal weight,’ but the battle will last for the rest of your life, and you can’t maintain fad diets,” says Dr. Poynter.

She advises her patients to “take it slow and easy,” and begin by putting on their tennis shoes and walking to the mailbox a few times a day. She also recommends downloading MyFitnessPal to assist with recording meals and keeping track of exercise.


Alive and Well by the Grace of God
Being at the right place at the right time saved James Blanton’s life. While driving, he felt shortness of breath and chest pains, so he pulled into Emory Johns Creek and headed for the emergency ambulance entrance.

“I had the presence of mind to drive to the ambulance entrance because I wanted to make sure that if anything happened to me while I was driving, someone could come out and help me.”

As he pulled in, he had a massive heart attack, passed out at the wheel and collided with the ambulance entrance overhang.

He was rushed inside, and the emergency response doctors revived him.

“Fortunately, when I approached the intersection at McGinnis Ferry and 141, I had a green light. If I had stopped, I would have had a heart attack on the road,” said James. “I’m alive thanks to the grace of God and the care from the doctors and medical staff at Emory Johns Creek. It’s a miracle, really.”


Beating the Odds
Morgan Dickinson was 15 months old when she developed a cough one night.

The next morning, doctors told Mike and Michelle Dickinson that Morgan’s heart rate was very elevated, inflamed and dilated. It was barely pumping, and her health was deteriorating quickly, so they called for an ambulance to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Chief of the Critical Care division Dr. Jana Stockwell admitted Morgan into the pediatric intensive care unit because she faced severe cardiac failure.

After two days in the ICU, Morgan’s heart stopped, but her doctors were able to stabilize her with chest compressions.“She was placed onto something we call ECMO,” said Dr. Stockwell. “ECMO was heart and lung bypass for her.”

Miraculously, after a few days, her heart function rose, and she was weaned off support from the machine. In a year, her heart was back to normal.

“Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – we owe them quite a lot for their care of Morgan. The medical staff is the best in the field. They are number one in our hearts and our family,” said Michelle.


The Lifestyle Transformation That Saved a Life
Christopher Duke was already living with chronic back pain and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by his weight and heavy smoking, but he was not prepared for the life-changing news he was about to receive.

“I went in for a physical at Kaiser and was totally shocked at what I found out,” said Christopher.

His doctor returned with a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes and Hepatitis C. Then, a year later, he was diagnosed with stage three kidney disease.

Christopher realized that his unhealthy lifestyle is what led to his deteriorating health, so he quit smoking, got on a diet plan and started three Kaiser Permanente Healthy Living classes – yoga, stepping and movement classes and aqua therapy.

Six years later, his diseases are either barely noticeable or completely nonexistent. After losing 88 pounds, an accomplishment he attributes to the help of the doctors at Kaiser Permanente in Snellville and the Gwinnett Comprehensive Medical Center, he said that his life depended on a total lifestyle change.


Did you know?
Check out six quick facts about some of Gwinnett and North Fulton’s fastest-growing hospitals!

  1. Northeast Georgia Medical Center was ranked Georgia’s number one hospital for the second consecutive year by CareChex, an independent healthcare quality rating service.
  2. Gwinnett Medical Center recently opened a location at Hamilton Mill Station with primary care, cardiac and women’s care services, in addition to its imaging facilities and walk-in care.
  3. Last year, Eastside Medical Center earned an “A” – the top grade in patient safety by the Hospital Safety Score.
  4. Emory Johns Creek is home to the Atlanta Bariatric Center, designated a Center of Excellence by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons.
  5. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s nationally recognized Sports Medicine Program is now available to young athletes in South Cobb at Children’s at Ivy Walk.
  6. Kaiser Permanente was this year’s corporate honoree for The King Center’s Salute to Greatness Award because of its philanthropic efforts and commitment to workplace diversity.