Joseph Chirichella, President & CEO
Deborah Heart and Lung Center
I just wanted to share my recent experience “as a Deborah patient” with you. It is a long story…but a good one!
Since joining Deborah this past September, I had plans to schedule a full cardiac examination. I figure since I have these experts at my disposal I should take advantage of it and establish a cardiac baseline. As you know, I am 47 years old, athletic, eat right, and exercise regularly. My Grandfather, Dad and older brother have a dicey cardiac history but, I am in much better shape then they were at my age and felt I had little to be concerned with.
On February 10, 2012, I was examined by Dr. Sena who ordered the following basic tests; full blood work up, EKG and Echocardiogram. Immediately I was quite impressed with Dr. Sena and the professionalism and sincere concern each staff member and technician showed me when I was with them. Dr. Sena reviewed the information with me and said everything looks good, but he suggested we do a stress test the following week. The more we talked about family history he mentioned the CT Scan and suggested I have that done as well. As luck would have it, there was a break right then in the schedule and Julie Lenox scheduled it and personally walked me down to that department.
The CT Scan was really interesting and just amazes me every time I walk through there or see some of 3-D images. Dr. Sena called me the following morning to tell me all my tests were fine except the CT showed a slight “irregularity” in the right coronary artery. He said he wanted to consult with a few other physicians and he will talk to me again on Monday. That Monday I saw him and he showed me the images from the Scan and the consensus was that we should do an exploratory catheterization to see just what is going on in the RCA. I was now scheduled for the following Friday morning.
I went and spoke to Valerie Harris, RN about what I was in for. Val was so wonderful to me and clearly explained everything I wanted to know. Seeing how nervous I was becoming, she took additional time and was very reassuring and made sure all my questions were answered. The next morning I came in…first patient of the day! The crew of Nurses and Technicians that make up the “prep team” were great, very comforting and thorough. Once in the lab, Dr. Kovach explained that “we will go in, check all arteries and if we see nothing of concern you are off the table in 15 minutes and possibly home for dinner later tonight. If we see something, we will address it and you’ll be home tomorrow morning”. Sounded good to me!
Well, once they got on the inside, he discovered I had an 80% blockage in my right coronary artery, in multiple locations, requiring the deployment of 3 stents! I was awake and alert for the entire procedure and was fascinated by the technology in the room and precision of the Drs. and Nurses.
After a short stop in recovery, I was brought to the 3rd floor Interventional Unit for the night with a planned discharge for 9am Saturday morning. The nurses and the techs on this unit were nothing short of extraordinary. Being a “healthy” patient I had few needs and, as my wife instructed me, I was on my best behavior. Everyone who entered my room was friendly, professional and compassionate and got me whatever I requested. Housekeeping and Food & Nutrition staffs were equally as impressive.
So, since I didn’t have a heart attack and never experienced any prior symptoms, my recovery was like lying on the couch at home watching TV. Just a small bandage and a few twinges of pain once in awhile from the entry point in the groin. The nurses instructed me to lay around for a few hours then call them when I needed to go to the bathroom. Once I did that, I would be free to walk, sit up, sit in a chair, etc. So, Saturday morning around 8am I carefully got out of bed, walked around the unit sat down in the chair in my room.
While sitting, I was fine. As I carefully stood up I began to feel tightness in my right groin and hip area. I walked to the bed and sat down and rang for the nurse. When she came in and saw the swelling (now the size of a grapefruit), she immediately applied pressure with one hand and rang for the other nurses with the free hand. I swear, before she was able to put the second hand back on me, 5 nurses were in my room. It seems my Femoral artery ruptured and I was rapidly bleeding internally. My blood pressure was crashing and I was headed into shock until they stabilized me and the artery was able to clot.
During this episode I had no idea what was occurring, yet all the nurses were very calm and reassuring. Once I was out of the woods and they told me what had happened I was understandably upset. The scariest part of this ordeal was the notion that it could have happened in the car ride home or in the house in front of the kids. The quick action of the nurses saved me. Each one of them was reassuring me that I am okay and it wasn’t caused by anything I did. According to the doctors these ruptures, albeit extremely rare, can just happen without explanation. By mid-day Saturday I was brought up to 4 Lesser where again I was given exceptional care by Christy O’Kane, RN and her staff.
From Dr. Sena’s early detection, to Dr. Kovach’s skilled interventional team, to the nurses that saved me and all those who cared for me, it was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget. If you thought I was passionate about Deborah before…lookout now!
In addition to those mentioned above, here are a few members of our staff that deserve special recognition for their professionalism and gentle ways; Tony Knight, Lou Lewis, Kim Evans, Vivian Grupico, Sue Cupp, Diann Gonzales, Alyssa Welford, Karen Ruffin, Petra Errichetti, Dr. Van Hise and Dr. Maletzky. They are tremendous representatives of Deborah Heart & Lung Center.
In closing I want you to know that although I have heard hundreds of times just how wonderful the staff at Deborah is, it took my own personal experience for me to fully comprehend how exceptional they are and how lucky I am to be associated with such a collection of extraordinary individuals.
From your newest very, very grateful patient. Steve T.