During my years as a general surgeon the Cleveland Clinic had the best reputation in the country for colorectal surgery and numerous scientific papers were published by their staff. The hospital excelled in other areas, but I was not as familiar with them. When I began having my own issues with heart disease I became more aware the Cleveland Clinic had the reputation of being one of the best centers for cardiac surgery and in particular valvular heart disease. Their surgeons are on the cutting edge of minimally invasive valvular replacement and repair. Fortunately I have not had problems with my heart valves.
Our son John Aaron who has been extremely healthy and aerobically fit has developed recent heart issues with a diminished exercise tolerance. He has been receiving excellent care from his primary care physician in El Dorado, but decided to have an evaluation at The Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock. One of the founders of the hospital is Dr. Bruce Murphy a distinguished cardiologist for many years and whose roots are in El Dorado. His father Rev. Bruce Murphy was Pastor for many years of Second Baptist Church and has been a wonderful friend and encourager, especially during the 30 years Cathy and I lived in El Dorado. Dr. Murphy’s responsibilities now are administrative, but he took a personal interest in John’s care which I very much appreciated.
Following initial evaluation by his cardiologist and followup several months later at Arkansas Heart Hospital John and wife Gina were told he had significant valvular heart disease. The problem primarily involving a “leaking” aortic valve, and the aortic regurgitation (blood back-flowing into the heart) was becoming worse. At the advice of his cardiologist and concurrence by Dr. Murphy, an appointment was made with Dr. Edward Soltesz at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Murphy said in his opinion Dr. Soltesz was the best cardio-thoracic surgeon in the country and his sub-specialty was valvular heart problems. John and Gina were convinced the heart problem would require immediate repair, and with all their responsibilities including John’s leadership at Murphy USA as Senior Vice-President, the sooner he had the procedure the more quickly he could return to a more normal life-style. The appointment at Cleveland Clinic had to be postponed for 2 weeks because Dr. Soltesz was on vacation with his family. The appointment for pre-op evaluation was made for Monday July 30 and the operation was scheduled for the following morning.
Cathy and I were planning to be in Cleveland for the operation and remain until John was ready to come home. We made our airline reservations to arrive in Cleveland on the day prior to operation, and return home 3 days later depending on his post-operative condition. Delta Airlines was very gracious to sell us a “medical ticket” which allowed for cancellation of the reservation or extension to a later date depending on the medical condition of an immediate family member. We were able to purchase a similar ticket for our daughters, Mary Kay and Ginny so they could be present for their brother’s procedure.
The four of us were en route to Cleveland while John was receiving his pre-operative evaluation. Following the testing done at the Cleveland Clinic, John and Gina met with Dr. Soltesz and the cardiologist, Dr. Leonardo Rodriguez. They were extremely impressed with their doctors’ knowledge and their personalized care and concern. They were not in a hurry to fully explain John’s condition and prognosis, and made John and Gina believe they would patiently answer any question they might have. These are qualities not often seen in doctors in such large medical centers.
The joint recommendations of the two physicians was John would need to have aortic valvular replacement at some point in the future, but it was not needed at the present time. With evolving technology in minimally invasive surgery by the time John will need an operation, perhaps it can be done by means of a catheter through a peripheral artery!
When we arrived at the airport in Cleveland around 5 PM, I received a phone call from John telling me the good news they had just received. Our only regret at this point was having not received the news about 6 hours earlier before boarding the plane in Springfield. So we proceeded to the Intercontinental Hotel where the 4 of us met John, Gina and Landon, their youngest son for a celebration meal at the restaurant. That evening we all changed our airline reservations to return home the following morning.
We didn’t experience or see very much of Cleveland nor of the famed Cleveland Clinic. As we returned home the following day we thanked God for His provision for us, and for placing our son John into the skilled hands of the heart doctors of world-famous Cleveland Clinic. It was an expensive 2 day outing, but well-worth the cost.