Cardiac Care Program Aims to Save Lives, Prevent Complications

Before Jack Baxter and his wife, Sandi, could unpack their bags from a ski trip, they were forced to make an unexpected trip. This time, it was to Palomar Medical Center Escondido's Emergency Department where Jack learned the elephant on his chest was, indeed, a massive heart attack.

The good news for Jack was that at the time, Palomar Medical Center Escondido had just become the first hospital in San Diego County to implement Cardiac Alert, a program designed to decrease the time it takes for heart patients to receive life-saving treatment.

“We call it door to balloon time,” says Mikhail Malek, M.D. a cardiovascular specialist who is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiology and interventional cardiology. “At Palomar Medical Center Escondido, the average time is 62 minutes compared to the national average of 90 minutes.”

In Jack’s case, he was taken directly to the cardiac catheterization lab, where several significant blockages in his coronary arteries were discovered. Dr. Malek placed stents in the arteries to open and strengthen the arterial walls.

“Jack’s coronary arteries were blocked in numerous locations due to multiple cardiac risk factors including diabetes,” Dr. Malek says. “This indicated he would need additional procedures once he had recuperated from this massive heart attack.”

Jack has had numerous procedures.

“You can’t find a better hospital to go to,” Jack says. “The comprehensive services for cardiac care and the experienced, reassuring staff, add up to phenomenal quality.”

Award Winning Cardiac Care

Palomar Medical Center Escondido has received the Sustained Performance Achievement Award from the American Heart Association. This award recognizes care that meets or exceeds the national standards that focus on aggressive risk reduction therapies for patients who are admitted with heart disease.

“Our goal is to save lives and prevent cardiac complications that may result from delayed treatment of heart attacks,” Dr. Malek says.

Advanced cardiovascular services at Palomar Medical Center Escondido and Palomar Medical Center Poway offer a continuum of coordinated care that extends into the community with paramedic first responders and includes comprehensive diagnostic, medical, surgical and cardiac rehabilitation programs for inpatients and outpatients.

“The cardiac rehab program is really special,” Jack says. “When I was in the hospital after my first heart attack, rehabilitation therapists started me on exercises to help me get stronger. Outpatient rehabilitation classes have helped me learn to manage the stress that comes with being a business owner.”

Reducing Risks

“I encourage patients to do their best to prevent heart disease by managing the risk factors they can control,” Dr. Malek says. “This includes controlling diabetes and cholesterol, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious food and exercising regularly.”

Dr. Malek recommends that everyone over the age of 55 who has one or more risk factors for heart disease have a baseline EKG stress test that helps determine coronary artery obstruction.

“I’ve learned the importance of taking care of yourself,” Jack says. “Too often, we overlook the most important things in our life like our health, our family and our faith. Instead, we focus too much on work, get stressed out, eat the wrong foods and don’t exercise or relax enough.”

“Because of my outstanding care and learning how to take better care of myself, I’m much healthier now,” Jack says. “The best part is that we were able to visit Italy to celebrate Thanksgiving with our daughter who was studying abroad.”

If this story inspired you, give now to the Palomar Health Foundation to help other patients. Contact us at 760.739.2787 to discuss any gift opportunities.

  • Palomar Medical Center Escondido


    2185 Citracado Parkway

    Escondido, CA 92029





  • Palomar Medical Center Poway


    15615 Pomerado Road

    Poway, CA 92064