Keynote: Kermit Poling, conductor of the South Arkansas Symphony, was the keynote speaker for the 2017 Go Red for Men and Women luncheon at the El Dorado Country Club. Poling told his heart surgery story and how he considers himself very lucky.
By Kaitlyn Rigdon
EL DORADO — The Medical Center of South Arkansas Healthy Woman Board hosted the 2017 Go Red for Men and Women Luncheon at the El Dorado Country Club. MCSA provided complimentary heartlight health risk assessments, blood pressure screenings and were available to answer any heart health questions attendees had.
Kermit Poling, conductor of the South Arkansas Symphony, was the keynote speaker for the event.
Poling went through years of denial before going to the doctor to receive a heart cath expecting a stent. He was told he had no choice but to have an immediate triple bypass heart surgery.
Poling is celebrating his 22nd season as Music Director of the South Arkansas Symphony and has served as General Manager of the Red River Radio public radio network at LSU since 2006. He is in his 27th season as Music Director of the Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet and has worked 31 years as associate conductor of the Shreveport Symphony, which he has been Concertmaster for over 27 years.
“I was a performer from the time I was five or six years old,” Poling said. “One of the things you hear all the time is that the show must go on.”
Poling considers himself as a bit of a workaholic, constantly juggling concerts, meetings and writing music.
His health journey began when he and his wife took walks and his jaw began to hurt. He eventually went to the doctor and took a stress test that showed nothing was wrong. It wasn’t until his second stress test a few years later that they found his heart was abnormal.
“I am the luckiest man on earth because I never had a heart attack,” Poling said. “But I was very close to having one.”
He had noticed that while conducting concerts or taking his dog for walks, his chest would start to hurt. His doctor assumed it was acid reflux. He was even prescribed medicine that he took for three years for acid reflux. “Interestingly enough, it didn’t work all the time,” Poling said.
Half way through conducting concerts, he would begin to have chest pains, but by the time the concerts were over they would be gone.
When he finally went for a second stress test, they called him a few days later to come back and have a heart cath. They did not waste any time. He went straight from the heart cath unit to the cardiac care unit, where he had a triple bypass heart surgery. He had both 90 percent and 100 percent blockages. “The good news was that my recovery started very strong,” Poling said. “They actually had me up and walking around the CCU almost immediately.”
He recovered very quickly and was conducting full length concerts just seven weeks after the surgery. This was the first time in three or four years he was able to conduct a concert without being in pain.
Since then he has lost 40 pounds and his medical numbers have improved. “Overall I am so much more healthier than I ever was,” Poling said. “Being able to conduct without pain, that’s been a big deal.
“But the truth is, the big show, life, is the one that needs to go on and that’s the one that’s going to go on if you take care of yourself,” Poling said.
There were also recorded videos presented of three guests who were at the event. They were Bubba Medlin, Marsha Lacy and Gary Meshell and they shared their positive experiences with the heart staff at the medical center in El Dorado.
Medlin went to ULM and graduated in 1966 with his bachelors degree in marketing. He has lived in Strong for 47 years where he started his business Medlin Roofing. He spoke about having a heart attack while returning home from a Cancun vacation.
Lacy was born in Pennsylvania and was raised in Junction City, Kansas. She has lived in Union County for 22 years. She talked about having open heart surgery three years ago at MCSA. “It’s important to do your checkups and get your cholesterol tested because your cholesterol shows a lot,” Lacy said. “If you love life, you’re going to do what it takes to continue to live.”
Meshell has lived in Union County all of his life. He worked at MCSA for 40 years. He spoke about having a heart attack on a hunting trip and his friend driving him to the ER.
Heart disease is the number one killer in Arkansas with Arkansas having the sixth highest death rate from the disease in the United States. In 2009, cardiovascular disease totaled 2.1 million dollars in Arkansas.
Co-chairs of the event were Ginger and Jerry Bullard and Alieta and Robert Rupp. HealthWorks Fitness handed out a two week free pass to the center for everyone that attended the event.
The sponsors of the event were First Financial Bank, Medical Center of South Arkansas, Reliance Healthcare, Mayor Frank Hash and City of El Dorado, South Arkansas Surgery Center, ProMed, Murphy USA-Signature brands, Chemtura, Subway, Noalmark and Morgan’s Florist.
Kaitlyn Rigdon is a staff reporter for the News-Times. She may be reached at 870-862-6611 or by email email@example.com.