Healing Hearts

Joan Schmid

When heart conditions threaten to slow patients down, the experts behind Lenox Hill Hospital’s wide-reaching cardiothoracic surgery program can help get them back to their active lifestyles.

Joan Schmid, 85, loves traveling. About two years ago, however, the Vermont resident’s trip to Long Island to visit her son and his family was disrupted by health problems.

“We’d been to see a play on Broadway, and as we were walking the several blocks to the parking lot, I had to sit down on a stoop every few minutes to rest,” Joan said. “Because I was having such trouble breathing, my daughter-in-law, Patricia, who works with North Shore-LIJ, was concerned enough to call and ask if a doctor there could see me.”

Patricia made the call, and Joan was soon scheduled for an appointment. After performing several tests, doctors determined that her heart’s aortic valve had calcified so much that blood was barely getting through. Fortunately for Joan, she was a candidate for an open aortic valve replacement.

“Someone with symptoms like Joan experienced often has a one- to two-year mortality rate of between 30 and 50 percent without surgery,” said S. Jacob Scheinerman, MD, Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, who performed Joan’s procedure. “We performed her open valve replacement, and she did beautifully. She was up and moving around very quickly.”

Robot-Assisted and Minimally Invasive Options

Open-heart procedures such as Joan’s aortic valve replacement are no longer the only options available to heart patients. Lenox Hill Hospital offers minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgeries, as well as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), to provide patients with quicker recoveries, reduced pain and minimal scarring.

“The minimally invasive coronary bypass was pioneered here at Lenox Hill Hospital, with the first procedure performed in 1994,” said Nirav C. Patel, MD, Vice Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Director of Robotic Cardiac Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. “We have been able to carry on and improve that tradition to keep us at the forefront of excellence.”

Dr. Patel feels a vital component of that position is the collaborative work of colleagues in cardiothoracic surgery and interventional cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital.

“We perform a lot of hybrid procedures,” Dr. Patel said, referring to procedures that combine conventional surgical techniques with techniques often used in interventional cardiology, including catheter-based procedures. “It is important to us that our collaboration and innovation benefit our patients.”

This collaboration allows for the almost seamless transition of care between the hospital’s heart specialists.

“Every day at 6:45 a.m., 25 clinicians get together along with nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and attending physicians, and we discuss every patient in our care, whether they are doing beautifully or have issues that need to be remedied,” Dr. Scheinerman said. “No patient has just one set of eyes and one brain looking at his or her progress and thinking about his or her case — he or she has a whole team. This keeps us in tune with patient needs.”

Getting Back to Living

Just more than two years after her surgery, Joan feels better than ever. She’s back to her active lifestyle of traveling, and even kayaking rivers.

“There’s a huge difference in how I feel now compared to how I felt before surgery,” Joan said. “Each time I go for a checkup with my cardiologist, they tell me I’m doing great and that they can’t believe the shape I’m in.”

She credits Dr. Scheinerman with her speedy recovery and improved health.

“Not only is he a talented doctor, he’s a kind and caring one,” Joan said. “He gave me more years to see my grandchildren grow up and graduate.”

To learn more about cardiothoracic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, visit bit.ly/lhcardio.

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