B.L., 89, and wife Rose, 84, are both happy to be back at home today, recovering from a year that was probably one of the most difficult they had faced in their 64 years of marriage.
In May 2011, after suffering shortness of breath for some time, B.L. had two heart valves replaced--his aortic valve and mitral valve--and a third (the tricuspid) repaired. Gan Dunnington, M.D. performed the operation, which involved traditional open-heart surgery, a 14-day stay in the hospital and a five-week recovery in a rehabilitation facility. In addition to valve surgery, B.L. also had the "maze procedure" for atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm)--a surgery where multiple cuts are made in the heart in a maze pattern (the scars created through the surgery block the electrical impulses that cause the abnormal heart rhythm). Despite the extent of B.L.'s surgery, he recovered quickly, and says he was "back driving in just eight weeks."
Unfortunately, while B.L. was recovering from his surgery, Rose began to feel short of breath herself. She also had chest pain. Because she'd had a quadruple bypass a decade earlier, she was well aware of the symptoms of heart trouble. So, in March 2012, Rose underwent almost the exact same procedure as B.L. with the same surgeon, Dr. Dunnington. He replaced her aortic and mitral valve, and repaired her tricuspid. Rose is still recovering at home but, so far, she is doing well and says she is very anxious to begin working in her garden. "We appreciate everything Dr. Dunnington has done for us," adds B.L. "He's one of the best heart surgeons around."
There certainly aren't too many couples who have both survived triple heart valve surgery. When asked what he appreciated most about their care, B.L. says it was the well-coordinated efforts of Dr. Dunnington and the surgical team (Ramin Beygui, M.D., and Doug Jacobs, P.A.), along with interventional cardiologist James Joye, D.O., and cardiac electrophysiologist L. Bing Liem, D.O.
"The entire team was superb," says B.L. "Our physicians visited us many, many times in the hospital to see how we were doing and took care of all our needs after surgery. They were wonderful. And we were both very fortunate to have the constant support of our cardiologist, Dr. Anita Prakash, and, for Rose, endocrinologist Dr. Len Doberne."
B.L. has been to other hospitals, and says that the level of attention patients receive at El Camino Hospital is unparalleled. "I think we know almost all the cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons by now. We even go to the hospital's annual Heart Forum organized by Dr. Dominick Curatola every year just to listen to them speak. They're that good."
A veteran of World War II and a cancer survivor, too, B.L. has been through quite a lot in his 89 years. B.L., we thank you for sharing your story and for your service to our country, too. And we wish you and Rose all the best.