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Heart and Vascular Patient Stories

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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.

Heart Rhythm Disorders

Bob Bjorvik

The Beat Goes On
Bob Bjorvik had become so accustomed to his racing heartbeat that he wasn’t even aware he had a heart rhythm disorder. After being referred to the University of Chicago Medicine, he learned he had atrial fibrillation. A cardiologist performed radiofrequency catheter ablation to treat Bjorvik's irregular heartbeat, and he was back at work in a few days and symptom free.

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.

Lamb Moore

Clinical trial tests tiny experimental pacemaker that does not require surgery
Lamb Moore was the first person in Illinois to receive a tiny experimental cardiac pacemaker. After receiving two standard pacemakers, Moore was referred to the University of Chicago. Here, electrophysiologist, Hemal Nayak, MD, implanted the new miniaturized pacemaker directly into the apex of the right ventricle of his heart without surgery.

Coronary Artery Disease

Surgical adventure clears a path for globe-trotting family
Mark Brauner and his family were planning on the adventure of a lifetime, but what he didn’t plan on was having heart trouble. Just four weeks before leaving for a year abroad, Brauner discovered he would need a bypass graft. Not wanting to delay the trip, he searched someone who could do the procedure totally endoscopically, which brought him to Husam Balkhy, MD and the University of Chicago Medicine. Just under three weeks after surgery, the Brauner family was headed for Europe as planned.

Stephen Hood

Coronary Bypass Without Opening the Chest
After tests showed significant narrowing in three of his coronary arteries, Stephen Hood turned to cardiac 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.

Leroy Cooper

Back on Course
When Leroy Cooper, an avid golfer, was told he would have to have open-heart surgery, he was determined to find an alternative. Because the distribution of the blockages in Cooper's heart were complex, cardiology experts at the University of Chicago Medicine decided to perform a hybrid procedure consisting of both a robotic coronary bypass surgery and catheterization. The blockages were removed without open-heart surgery, and Cooper was teeing off two week 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.

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


The Heart of the Matter
For almost two years, Nancy Pettet-Schubert experienced shortness of breath, heart palpitations and fatigue during routine activities. After learning she had a mitral valve insufficiency, she came to the University of Chicago Medicine and Husam Balkhy, MD, for minimally invasive valve surgery. Within three weeks, Pettet-Schubert was back to work and feeling much better.

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.

Interventional Cardiology

James Bell

Beating Back the Widow Maker
When James Bell began to sweat like never before, he knew something was very wrong. Soon after arriving at the University of Chicago Medicine emergency room, his heartbeat became rapid and erratic -- he was having a heart attack. Through the quick work of the emergency department and interventional cardiologist, they were able to clear a blockage in his heart to restore blood flow. Now, Bell is back to exercising daily and feels good.

The Gills

Two Complex Surgeries, One Happy Family
Though Gerald Gill was flying to Chicago to be with his mother during her heart surgery, he quickly found himself a patient as well. Soon after arrival, it was discovered that his previous bypass grafts were stealing blood from his heart. Interventional cardiologist, Atman Shah, MD, was able to stop the leakage, and Gerald was able to be at his mother's bedside, symptom-free, as she recovered from her own procedure.

Transplant Surgery

Ted Bayard

No Challenge Too Great
After Ted Bayard went into cardiogenic shock during coronary artery bypass surgery, he needed more advanced treatment. Bayard was referred to the University of Chicago Medicine, where he received a biventricular assist device to stabilize and support his heart until a donor heart became available. After receiving his heart transplant, Bayard is back to doing the things he loves.

A Promise that Saved a Life
Torrence Tate came from a family of "professional patients" suffering from heart disease. Tate witnessed his own father's struggles with heart failure and passed away after receiving a ventricular assist device (VAD). Though Tate was a viable heart transplant candidate, his aversion to VADs made Nir Uriel, MD, think outside the box for a treatment that could sustain his heart until a donor organ became available. Nearly a year after his transplant, Tate is working out regularly and coaching community basketball and baseball.

The New Normal: Heart Transplant Follows HIV Diagnosis
Carl Klaxon's health was deteriorating due to heart failure, but was told he as ineligible for a heart transplant because of his HIV. Klaxon refused to give up and continued looking for alternative treatment solutions, which led him to the University of Chicago Medicine. Dr. Nir Uriel did not see his HIV as a barrier to treatment, and Klaxon went on to be the first HIV patient to receive a heart transplant in Illinois.

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

Every Fireman has Strength, Endurance and Courage. This Fireman also has a Heart Transplant
Two years after Larry Matthews had a heart transplant, he realized his dream of becoming a firefighter. With his new heart, he was able to complete the required firefighter fitness test and perform the rigors of the job. Receiving life-changing care at the University of Chicago Medicine not only gave him a chance at his dream, it was also where he met his wife.

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.

Vascular Care

Jim Schaffer

Oswego patient and UChicago Medicine surgeon go the distance in Comer 5K
Jim Schaffer was sidelined from competitive running by aneurysm for six years. Just two years after receiving bypass surgery from Ross Milner, MD, at the University of Chicago Medicine, Schaffer made a comeback. Schaffer finished third in his division in the Comer Children's RBC Race for the Kids.

Mackenzie Hild

Helping the Humanitarian
Mackenzie Hild suffered debilitating stomach pain after eating for years before being diagnosed with median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS). Hild was referred to Christopher Skelly, MD, and the University of Chicago Medicine -- home to the largest MALS program worldwide. After undergoing surgery, Hild is now eating pain free for the first time in five years.

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.