Tommy V's Story: Committed to Beebe for Life
In our house, Sunday is a day to relax, sleep in, and have a nice home-cooked breakfast. But this particular Sunday, when my significant other, Tom, awoke, he mentioned he wasn’t feeling well. He complained of overall pain and said he felt like he was coming down with the flu. He felt well enough to prepare breakfast, but I could tell he wasn’t himself, and after breakfast, he sat down to rest while I tidied up the kitchen. By the time I had finished, he was feeling worse. I felt strongly we needed to visit Beebe’s Walk-In Care, and Tom readily agreed. The clinic was very busy; the wait was over an hour, and when he saw the doctor, Tom said he had some chest pains.
The doctor immediately sent him to Beebe’s Emergency Department in Lewes. On arrival, he told the triage nurse he felt crushing pain, like an elephant was sitting on his chest. Very soon, several tests were run, more tests were recommended, and by Sunday evening he was admitted to the hospital.
What followed were four days of progressively more vigorous cardiac testing, including a cardiac catheterization. The cath results showed major blockages in three arteries, and unfortunately, Tom was not a candidate for stents. Surgery was the only option, and because he was having chest pains at rest, his cardiologist and the cardiothoracic surgery team at Beebe told us he needed it as soon as possible, in the next 24 to 36 hours.
We had a lot of decisions to make, and friends and family all wanted to help. Some had had surgery themselves and recommended we take Tom to another hospital. We were from Baltimore, and had relationships with other doctors and hospitals in Maryland. Our minds were racing, and we were stressed.
By the next morning, Tom was looking weaker, and the chest pains were continuing. Tom was scared and wasn’t even sure he wanted the surgery. I was fearful that he had given up.
And then the magic happened. We met Dr. Kurt Wehberg, who told us about cardiac care at Beebe. Dr. Wehberg introduced us to Dr. Edward "Ted" Stephenson, a newly recruited cardiothoracic surgeon, who would also be part of the surgical team. We were impressed, and Tom seemed to perk up.
Tom discovered he had connections with each of them. Dr. Wehberg lived in Baltimore, had gone to the same university as Tom, and was Jesuit trained. Dr. Stephenson had also attended a Jesuit university, and immediately Tom felt he was in excellent hands. As the conversations continued, I could see Tom’s spirit’s lifting, and I realized they all had immediately put him at ease.
Tom asked Dr. Stephenson, “Is this high-risk surgery for me?” His answer was immediate: “Yes. You are 88 years old, and it’s possible for you to have a heart attack or a stroke during the surgery.”
Tom thought about it for a minute, and then said, “Could I die?” Dr. Stephenson said, “Yes, there is that chance.” “What if I don’t have the surgery?” Tom asked, and the doctor responded, “That’s not an option I would recommend.”
Tom said later, “I had a feeling of total trust, and felt like I was in the hands of true professionals who had a long history of these types of surgeries. I was at ease with my decision and told the doctors, ‘OK let’s do it - here at Beebe. I’m very comfortable right here, and Dr. Stephenson is the one I want to do my surgery.’”
Tom ended up with quadruple bypass surgery. The blockages were more severe than the doctors had been able to diagnose, but Tom came through with flying colors!
“Every one of the ICU nurses, as well as the cardiac physician assistants, Brian McCarthy and Alice Isidro, and all the other staff who took part in my care, were phenomenal!” said Tom. “The team worked together incredibly well. The shift changes were flawless, and my concerns were always addressed with care and dignity.
“Dr. Stephenson was incredible; he was caring, authentic and honest in the way he explained my condition to us. He had only been at Beebe for two days when we met him, but we had no reservations at all. My family and I are forever grateful for the care I received at Beebe. As a retired naval officer, I salute the hospital, the surgical team and all those caregivers who gave me back my life, and I wish ‘fair winds and a following sea’ to all.”
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