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Jim’s Story: Grateful for cardiac care

03/19/2018

Jim Duffy had settled in for the night at his home in Ashland, MA, ready to welcome 2018. It was a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve and Jim wasn’t feeling well. “I couldn’t catch my breath,” said Jim, 75, Jim Duffy was awaiting the New Year when he suddenly was sent to Tufts MC for cardiac surgery.of his persistent symptom. “Breathing had become such an effort.” Alarmed and alone, Jim dialed 911 and was transported to MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham.

Heart disease diagnosis

Jim was examined by Christopher Gange, MD , a cardiologist with the Heart Center of MetroWest, an affiliate of Tufts Medical Center’s CardioVascular Center. Dr. Gange, who completed his cardiology fellowship training at Tufts MC, performed a cardiac catheterization with coronary angiography to look for blocked coronary arteries.

“Dr. Gange told me I had three blocked arteries in my heart and would need open heart surgery at a Boston hospital,” Jim said. “I suggested Tufts Medical Center and he wholeheartedly agreed.”

Formerly a senior compensation consultant in the Human Resources Department at Tufts MC, Jim had close ties to the hospital where he worked before his retirement seven years ago. “I loved everything about being an employee of Tufts MC,” said Jim. “I never imagined I’d be a patient there but knew I would be in great hands.”

A warm blanket, a warm word

Jim recalls feeling relieved as he was wheeled into the familiarity of Tufts MC following a bumpy ambulance ride from Framingham to Boston. He was admitted to the Cardiac Inpatient Unit where his sense of comfort grew. “The nurses tucked me into bed with a heated blanket. I was chilled to the bone and that blanket was heaven,” Jim said. 

Scott Beuoy, PA, Chief Physician Assistant, Cardiac Surgery was on duty that night and greeted Jim, giving him a clinical evaluation and providing emotional support. “When we sense anxiety or apprehension, we strive to put the patient’s mind at ease. Treating their emotional wellbeing is just as important as treating their disease,” said Scott who educated Jim about his scheduled coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

“Scott has a smile that lights up the room,” Jim said. “He took complete charge and calmed me down. He asked how I was feeling and when I admitted, ‘I’m scared to death,’ Scott told me not to be afraid. He said I was safe and that everyone at Tufts MC was there to help me get better.”

While calm reigned in Jim’s hospital room, outside the weather took a turbulent turn. A powerful blizzard battered the Northeast, dumping more than a foot of snow in Boston. Jim’s surgery was postponed due to the storm, but Jim made the best of it, chatting with nursing and housekeeping staff and enjoying his meals. “The food was excellent,” said Jim, recalling his surprise at his tasty dinner the first night—chicken breast with vegetables and rice and tapioca pudding for dessert.

Coronary artery bypass surgery

Frederick Y. Chen, MD, PhD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery, and Kenneth Warner, MD, Senior Cardiothoracic Surgeon, visited Jim prior to his operation. “Dr. Chen told me I was a good candidate for bypass surgery and encouraged me to ask questions,” said Jim.

According to Dr. Chen, the five-hour coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG)  required Jim’s chest to be cut open to expose his heart. His heart would then be stopped while a heart-lung machine did the work of the heart and lungs, pumping and oxygenating blood.

“The heart has arteries which feed blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. Several of Jim’s arteries had severe blockages. The recommended treatment was a triple bypass surgery. This creates a parallel plumbing system that reroutes blood past the blockage and to the heart, improving blood supply and decreasing the risk for heart attack. We also placed a device in the femoral artery called an intra-aortic balloon pump to help the heart recover from the heart lung machine,” said Dr. Chen.

Treated like family

“Scott told me I wouldn’t feel a thing and he was right,” said Jim post-surgery. In addition to his surgeons, Jim’s surgical team included a cardiac anesthesiologist, perfusionist and cardiac nurses. He also credits therapists from Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy for getting him up and moving.

Dr. Chen expects Jim to make a complete recovery and enjoy a better quality of life—on a low salt, low fat diet. Dr. Chen’s philosophy of care is simple and echoes what Jim experienced hospital-wide: “We treat every patient the way we would want our own family members to be treated,” he said.

Jim said the New Year’s week he spent at Tufts MC healed his heart and filled it with gratitude. Driven home by his former boss, Dan Carton, Director of Human Resources, Jim expressed thanks – for the warm blankets, the good food and the exceptional care. “Everyone was so kind, professional and supportive,” he said.