After Open Heart Surgery, He and His Wife Were Able to Take the Trip of a Lifetime
Thanks to expert care at MidMichigan Health during and after heart surgery, Fred McKelvy and his wife were able to take the trip of a lifetime to Africa.
Fred McKelvy of Midland never noticed any symptoms that might indicate anything was wrong with his heart. The 63-year-old was perfectly happy with his normal life. He was enjoying retirement and the time he got to spend with his wife, Marianne.
Like the responsible patient he was, McKelvy visited his family doctor, Tammy Phillips, M.D., for a routine checkup one day. At this particular visit, however, Dr. Phillips noticed his heart beating irregularly. An EKG was performed to confirm, and Dr. Phillips referred him to MidMichigan Physicians Group Cardiology in Midland. There, McKelvy was placed under the care of Interventional Cardiologist Andrzej Boguszewski, M.D.
Dr. Boguszewski performed a few more tests to identify the source of the issue, which was determined to be an aneurysim in his aorta – the main artery from the heart to the rest of the body. Additionally, a structural abnormality in his aortic valve was also identified. Normally, the aortic valve should be made of three separate flaps. Instead, McKelvey’s aortic valve had only two flaps. If this wasn’t corrected, more heart problems were likely in the future.
McKelvy was referred for open heart surgery to replace the valve and repair the aneurysm. At the head of his surgical team was Cardiovascular Surgeon Robert Jones, M.D. “I had a fantastic surgical team,” McKelvy said. “Outstanding both in quality of surgical expertise and the support they gave the whole family. They showed us all the images and answered any questions we had.” Dr. Jones even made it clear to McKelvy that he could call anytime, even on the weekend, if he needed any help or had any questions.
On the day of his surgery, every member of the surgical team came out and met with McKelvy and his wife as he was being prepped. “The expertise of the whole team was tremendous,” said Marianne. “They gave me a phone call every two hours to tell me how he was doing.”
After the surgery was done, McKelvy stayed in the hospital for nine nights. He had a couple of issues that needed to be resolved before he could head home. The first was that his left diaphragm had stopped working correctly, which happens in a small number of heart surgeries. “They took it very seriously,” he said. “They made sure it got working right again.”
McKelvy also developed low blood pressure, which the hospital staff monitored around the clock. They carefully adjusted his medications until his blood pressure had returned to normal.
For the first few weeks of his recovery at home, McKelvy used a home blood pressure monitor that automatically transmitted his results back to the hospital. He was also visited regularly by a nurse who specialized in cardiac recovery, who saw to every aspect of McKelvy’s wellness needs.
With the help of MidMichigan’s cardiac rehabilitation services, McKelvy regained his strength bit by bit. “They make sure you’re moving around and getting exercise,” he said. He gradually went from walking around the house with a walker, to walking down his driveway, to walking down the street. “I went a little bit further every day,” he said.
McKelvy and his wife had a recovery goal in mind: a three-country trip to Africa. They walked together every day to get him well enough to go on safari. “By the end of the summer we were walking three to four miles at a time,” he said, “for a total of seven miles a day.”
Their dreams came true with a wild safari adventure through Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In Cape Town, they passed by the hospital where the world’s first heart transplant had been performed. “I took a picture and sent it to Dr. Jones,” McKelvy said.
Today, McKelvy is happy to say he is healthier than he was before the surgery. “I was truly impressed by the quality of the cardiovascular experience here at the hospital.”
MidMichigan Health offers a full array of heart and vascular services, including open heart surgery, vascular surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced interventional procedures. Those who would like additional information on MidMichigan’s comprehensive cardiovascular team may visit www.midmichigan.org/heart.