General Motors Foundry retiree and open heart surgery patient
Bay City, Michigan
"I was tired and I could hardly do anything. I would start a project and not be able to finish it because I was so fatigued. Now, I feel like I’m pretty much capable of doing anything I was doing before."
Retiree Chooses MidMichigan’s One Stop Post Op Care to Heal His Heart
When Virgil Staudacher of Bay City found out he needed open heart surgery, he luckily had time to plan.
After retiring from his job at the General Motors Foundry, Virgil tried to stay busy with various personal projects, but he couldn’t help but notice he seemed unable to complete those projects within what he thought was a reasonable time. He wasn’t able to put as much effort into maintaining the plants growing in the many small beds of his square foot garden, or his other summer yard work.
At first, he thought his pace had slowed because he was no longer conditioned from regularly working at the foundry. However, he soon began to notice an uncomfortable tightening in his chest and felt increasingly more fatigued.
He went to the local emergency room because the tight feeling in his chest was so severe. Results of a nuclear stress test, which measures blood flow to the heart while at rest and during stress, indicated there was a small amount of leakage in his heart valve. Virgil said his doctor told him it was nothing he needed to be too concerned about.
Virgil continued to experience episodes during which his chest felt tight and he continued to feel fatigued, so he scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist. Virgil suspected that he might have a couple of blocked veins as a result of his ongoing battle with high cholesterol and triglycerides.
“I thought maybe they’d put a couple of stents in and I’d be good to go,” he said. Stent tubes would help open the flow of blood to the heart; however the cardiologist discovered that an aneurysm, or bulging blood vessel, had caused stretching in an aortic valve, which resulted in serious blood leakage around Virgil’s heart. “The cardiologist told me that the only way to fix it would be to do surgery.”
Virgil began to do research to find the best facility that could complete the heart surgery procedure he needed, and that also accepted his insurance. He researched both local and out-of-state medical centers and chose to have heart surgery at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland.
Virgil met with Robert Jones, M.D., MidMichigan’s open heart program director and primary thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, and was scheduled for heart surgery. During surgery, the leaking aortic valve was replaced with a bioprosthetic valve made from pig tissue. The five-hour surgery was conducted in one of two state-of-the-art operating rooms especially equipped for heart surgery with technology for touch-screen control of audio, visual and medical equipment.
Of course, confidence in the heart team and the state-of-the-art technology were primary considerations in Virgil’s choice. But another innovative feature of the MidMichigan heart program also caught his attention: One Stop Post Op Care.
MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland is the only hospital in the region to offer One Stop Post Op care, which means that patients do not have to keep changing rooms during recovery after heart surgery. Studies have shown that this provides for safer and quicker recovery.
“The way it’s set up, you’re in the same room throughout your stay,” Virgil said. “You’re not moved around a lot and you get familiar with all the nursing staff. It felt more familiar and more comfortable.”
Virgil’s room was designed to meet every regulation for critical care, but it looked more like a hotel room. Medical equipment was positioned in closed cabinets, and the room had a private bath and a comfortable sofa and chair. The room’s convenience and privacy encourage family members to be at the patient’s bedside as much as possible.
Virgil spent four nights in the One Stop Post Op, then went home to continue his recovery.
“The nurses were all great and I was really impressed with Dr. Jones,” Virgil said. “Dr. Jones still calls me once in a while to check up on me. I don’t really expect that of any doctor, so it was a surprise.”
Three weeks after surgery, Virgil was able to take a short drive on his motorcycle, being sure to take it easy and pay attention to his heart. Six months after his surgery, he was taking his motorcycle on longer trips and was skimming through plant books to learn more about the various varieties of tomatoes he could plant in his garden. He also was considering making a repeat trip to Arizona to do some gold prospecting. When he went in 1997, he found a gold nugget by using a metal detector.
“Now, I feel like I’m pretty much capable of doing anything I was doing before,” he said.
MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland’s nationally recognized team of cardiologists and surgeons offers specialized care for patients with cardiac-related health problems. The facility is equipped with the latest medical knowledge and technology to implant defibrillators, provide heart catheterization and conduct open-heart surgery. For more information, call MidMichigan Health Line toll free at (800) 999-3199 or go to www.midmichigan.org/heart.