John's Story: Back in the Swing After Heart Surgeries and Rehab

John playing golf

John’s story begins in March 2005 when his wife, Patti, was undergoing treatment for liver cancer. At her side in the hospital, John experienced severe shortness of breath. He took himself to the emergency room, and was subsequently admitted to the cardiac ICU with a diagnosis of severe congestive heart failure.

Patti died two days later. John was discharged the following day with the directive from the attending physicians to see a cardiologist for follow-up care and a pacemaker implant. After Patti’s funeral, he was faced with the task of taking care of his own health. He spoke to family and friends and chose The Heart Group.

The Care Journey Begins

John’s care began with Dr. Roy Small, director of The Heart Group’s Heart Failure Clinic, a program nationally recognized for its low rate of re-admission to the hospital. John was then referred to Dr. Seth Worley who implanted a biventricular device (a specialized pacemaker/defibrillator) in May 2005. Also, John was placed on a medication regimen to help manage his symptoms.

With a solid commitment to good health, John continued to go to the gym regularly and watch his diet. “Due to my strong faith and willingness to survive, I never let myself believe that I couldn’t overcome this deficiency and return to a normal life,” he says.

John continued to be seen by the nurse practitioners and physicians in the Heart Failure Clinic for the next few years. “They were very conscientious in my care and made me feel very comfortable throughout the entire process."

Next Steps with Penn Medicine

Four years after his first visit, Dr. Small told John that he had taken his care as far as he could and John was still not adequately responding to the treatment. He recommended that John be evaluated for a heart transplant at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

“The transfer of my care was seamless and I was thankful for that,” John remembers.

John was evaluated by Dr. Mariell Jessup, medical director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Penn. “After two days of testing, Dr. Jessup was amazed at how well I had ‘compensated’ physically, given the severity of my heart condition. The doctor attributed this to the fact that I was actively exercising during this period and following a proper diet.”

On September 20, 2010, five months after being placed on the transplant list, John’s pager went off and his two sons, John Jr. and Steve, drove him down to Philadelphia to receive his new heart. The next day, he was up and walking the halls at the hospital.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

John’s recovery back to good health was a long journey that included some setbacks, including a bout of pneumonia and fluid on the right lung, which required another surgery. Once he recovered and was stable, John went through our Cardiac Rehabilitation Program where he slowly got back to activity.

Today, happily retired, John still maintains his gym schedule three to four times each week and works part time at Foxchase Golf Club where he plays golf and appreciates the camaraderie of friends, co-workers, and fellow golfers. Some of the things he is thankful for and enjoys today: going to Phillies games, riding on roller coasters at Hersheypark and “drinking a nice cold beer when I want to!”

He also gets to play with his granddaughter, Evelina, born in 2013.

“Seeing Evelina is one of the many things I would have missed if I didn’t get through this,” added John. “I had a strong motivation to get healthy again and remain mentally focused throughout this ordeal. I attribute this to my belief in God, the emotional and physical support provided by my family and friends and my medical team. I love to share my story so others understand the importance of diet, exercise and following a medication regimen."

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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