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The son of a coal miner: Why this local surgeon works with the heart

WTAP News @ 6- TIH Local Surgeon Comes home
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 7:56 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Dr. Geoffrey Cousins is a local heart surgeon who’s West Virginia roots led him to where he is now.

If you ask Art Smith how Cousins has impacted his life, his answer is simple.

“He saved it. That’s it. He saved it. I’ve told him several times that he saved my life,” Smith said.

About a year ago, Smith came to WVU Medicine Camden Clark with major blockages in his heart.

“I couldn’t walk. I was leaning on every mailbox in the neighborhood and I thought it was my lungs…,”

That’s where he met Dr. Cousins.

Smith remembered, “He came in and I had probably 20 or 25 monitors all around me and he was looking at each one of them and he would tell the nurse we need to do this we need to do that. It was just incredible how professional he was.”

Cousins has been practicing surgery for over 20 years. He was introduced to the medical field at an early age due to his parents’ health issues.

“My father was a coal miner. He spent about 35 years underground in the mines in Keystone West Virginia and, as a result of that, he developed black lung, he developed heart disease, high blood pressure, he had a couple strokes,” Cousins said.

On top of that, he was the eleventh child in his family. The multiple pregnancies led his mother to have her own health challenges.

It was his father’s story, however, that inspired him to specialize in heart surgery.

Growing up, what Cousins saw of the medical world forever influenced who he is as a doctor.

He remembers his parents leaving doctors appointments that they drove hours to get to, both of them still confused on what they were supposed to do next.

“It was very daunting that you had driven two hours to get to the doctor, waited multiple hours to see the doctor, and now we’re driving multiple hours back home but we don’t have a clue as to what the next step is…,” he remembered.

Because of that, Cousins makes sure he takes the time to address questions and make sure his patients know what to do next before they leave.

His experience in the medical world as a child also influenced where he chose to work.

“I unfortunately saw that people didn’t always seem to get what they needed or the best care that they could have and so there was something I always had in my mind that I was going to come back to West Virginia and I was going to bring state of the art heart care back to West Virginia so that people in West Virginia didn’t have to leave the state to get heart surgery,” he said.

Now Cousins spends his life giving West Virginians life-changing care.

Smith is doing much better than he was a year ago because of him.

“I can walk. I could not walk. My wife and I take walks together. I couldn’t walk. I can do that now. At Belpre Park, I did a mile. I couldn’t walk from one mailbox to the other,” he said.

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