Heart Patient Stories

elderly woman's face

Though our physicians and staff care for hundreds of patients during the course of a year, each patient's story is unique. We're proud to share some of our patients' stories with you.

Atrial Fibrillation

Becky Elliott

Robotic Surgery Resets Heart Rhythm
Becky Elliott, an avid hiker and camper, had been sidelined in most of her activities by years of atrial fibrillation. Her cardiologist in Missouri recommended she come to University of Chicago Medicine to undergo robot-assisted ablation of her heart. Cardiac surgeon, Husam Balkhy, MD, a nationally known expert in this endoscopic robotic approach, performed the minimally invasive procedure.

Coronary Artery Disease

Stephen Hood

Coronary Bypass Without Opening the Chest
After tests showed significant narrowing in three of his coronary arteries, Stephen Hood turned to cardicac surgeon Husam Balkhy, MD, and his team. Dr. Balkhy performed totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass (TECAB) surgery, a closed, robotic procedure that allowed Hood to return to work just five weeks later.

Heart Failure

Howard Dybedock

LVAD Surgery Restores the Life of a Heart Failure Patient
A left ventricular assist device not only saved Howard Dybedock’s life, it restored it. Before receiving the device that boosts the pumping action of his heart, Dybedock had so little energy that he found himself stopping to catch his breath after just a few steps. Today, he’s back at work running his company. Dybedock also serves as a resource to help other LVAD patients get acclimated to living with the lifesaving implant.

Ron Lekavich

Music Teacher Is Back On Beat After Heart Surgery
A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) helped Ron Lekavich return to teaching music after suffering from extreme weakness and shortness of breath due to heart failure. "If I didn't receive the heart pump, they would have given me six months to a year to live," Lekavich said. The University of Chicago Medicine implants LVADs as a bridge to heart transplant or as an alternative to transplant. Video included.

Daniel Kusek

Team Approach to Heart Failure Care Restores Quality of Life
Daniel Kusek has faced several heart problems and has undergone surgery, medical therapy, and catheter ablation to keep his heart failure in check. At each turn, the coordinated care provided by his University of Chicago physician team enabled Kusek to get back to enjoying life with family and friends. "I am a living example of the amazing technology and care that physicians at the University of Chicago provide," he said.

Kathleen Colvin

A Complex Patient Gets an All-Star Lineup of Care
In 2009, Kathleen Colvin was at risk for needing kidney dialysis or a transplant. She took 20-plus pills a day to treat congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and other conditions, but the medicine didn't help her feel better. Hoping for a better solution to her health problems, Colvin turned to a team of University of Chicago experts to provide holistic care. Her new, comprehensive treatment plan dramatically improved her stamina, and she no longer needs dialysis or a transplant.

Heart Valve Disease

First Post-FDA Approval TAVI Case in Chicago: Geraldine's Story
At age 73, Geraldine Roman launched what she calls her "third life" thanks to a new heart valve and a 17-member team of nurses, cardiac care technicians, cardiologists, heart surgeons and anesthesiologists. Roman, who suffered from "a huge bundle of co-morbidities," was not eligible for valve surgery when she turned to the University of Chicago Medicine. Her new team performed an innovative, non-surgical procedure -- a transcatheter aortic-valve implantation (TAVI), approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a few months earlier -- to give her a new chance at life.

Transplant Surgery

Larry Bybee

Heart Transplant Recipient Gives Back to Those That Saved His Life
Following a massive heart attack, Michigan construction worker Larry Bybee received a heart transplant on his 50th birthday. In 2009, he served as grand marshal for the University of Chicago Medicine's team at the downtown Chicago American Heart Association Heart Walk.

Larry Matthews

Heart Transplant Reunion: A Time to Celebrate a Second Chance at Life
Two years after Larry Matthews had a heart transplant, he realized his dream of becoming a firefighter. Matthews, as well as many other transplant recipients, their families, transplant physicians and staff celebrated the gift of organ donation at the annual heart transplant reunion. Also in attendance were people awaiting transplant surgery.

Kenneth Woodka

Heart-Kidney Transplant: Kenneth's Story
After being turned down for transplant by six different hospitals, Kenneth Woodka looked to the University of Chicago Medicine for help. Soon after he arrived, Kenneth had a successful heart-kidney transplant. Video included.

Pediatric Heart Care

Early Detection Gives Baby an Excellent Chance
Kim Rasmussen was pregnant with her third child when a routine ultrasound showed a possible abnormality in the fetus' heart. Pediatric cardiologist Brojendra Agarwala, MD, diagnosed the problem.