WCH Patient Stories
We feel fortunate to have received reflections from our patients about how Wooster Community Hospital has helped them. Here are some of the glowing reviews we've received:
Anxiety and depression - felt lonely until Jeanne found community through WCH’s Behavioral Health Services.
Jeanne (not pictured) had a wonderful life, with a loving husband, kids, and grandchildren. She was eager to help others, whatever they asked of her.
But under the surface, she was dealing with depression, anxiety, and unhealthy boundaries. She struggled to get up in the morning, and sometimes just sat in bed, staring at the walls.
“I spent probably a month crying almost every day,” she says.
Referred by her family doctor and encouraged by her husband, Jeanne started an Intensive Outpatient Program through the Behavioral Health Services at Wooster Community Hospital Health System.
“My first day, I was greeted by the receptionist with a big smile, and such warmth that I was drawn in,” Jeanne says.
Three days a week, Jeanne attended group sessions that allowed participants to “check in” with each other and share their insights. She also had individual therapy sessions each week and medication management through the department’s psychiatrist.
She struggled to open up to her group at first, but soon learned how much they all had in common. “It helps to share because people might throw their two cents in, they might give you a different perspective that you didn’t even think about.”
Over time, Jeanne learned to set healthy boundaries and take better care of herself. In group and individual sessions, she learned tools to manage her anxiety and “face things head-on.”
Jeanne cannot say enough good things about the WCH behavioral health staff. “They’re there to listen, they’re there to help, they’re there for everything,” she says. “They just changed my life.”
WCH’s experienced ER staff may have saved Brad Mullen’s life. They insisted on admitting him for chest pain, shortly before he suffered a massive heart attack.
Everything has an expiration date and Brad Mullen will readily tell you his could have been June 26, 2018. But thanks to a thorough ER staff and a doctor who refused to let him leave the hospital, Brad is alive today to tell his story.
Like a bad dream you can’t shake, Brad, of Wooster, remembers every detail of that fateful Tuesday. The day was warm and sunny, and he had a full schedule ahead of him. First on his plate was picking up a business partner at the Cleveland Airport. As he backed out of his garage and headed toward the road that morning, he felt a familiar pain in his chest – hiatal hernia. “It was like swallowing too many mashed potatoes too quickly,” he said. The last act he recalls is stepping on the brakes before he blacked out.
Although he regained consciousness quickly, he realized he needed to get medical attention - and since his doctor could not accommodate on such a short notice, he reluctantly planned a trip to the ER and felt no real sense of urgency. He called a colleague to pick up his business partner and stopped to get gas on the way. Since he suffered from esophageal reflux, Brad was fairly certain that was the source of the pain.
An EKG at the WCH ER showed no abnormalities, and his enzyme levels came back normal. Still, some pain persisted, and Dr. Alison Southern insisted he be admitted. “Call it intuition or whatever, she was adamant that I not leave,” he said.
Thankfully Brad didn’t leave, because a short time later he suffered a massive heart attack, referred to as a STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction), “known as the widow maker,” said Brad. Had he driven to the airport, Brad is sure his business partner would have found him dead at the wheel of his car sitting in the arrivals section at Hopkins Airport. “People who suffer this type of heart attack generally don’t survive, I have come to understand” said Brad.
It was during the admission process the event occurred. Brad explained, “The last thing I really recall is the overwhelming pain and telling my wife, ‘It’s different this time.’” At that moment, a code was called and the emergency response team descended on Room 126. Dr. Rehan, interventional cardiologist, and his support staff went into overdrive. He placed two stents in Brad’s arteries. After recovery, Brad began cardiac rehabilitation; and in July, he had two more stents inserted and made some serious lifestyle changes.
Looking back, he recognizes that he had many risk factors for such an event. “I was diabetic, overweight, had high blood pressure and cholesterol, didn’t exercise much, and had a lot of stress in my life,” he said. “Now food is my fuel, I exercise daily and have lost 30 pounds.” Managing stress has been his biggest challenge.
Brad is so grateful for the caring hospital staff at WCH that encouraged him every step of the way. One nurse even had the strength of character to push Brad on some difficult issues.
“Nurse Debi was tough,” said Brad. “She told me that I had control issues and needed to make some changes. She was right,” said Brad. “Tough but caring, she sat and explained her observations and spent the time to provide guidance.” This was the first of many lessons to come.
Debi was just one of the “fantastic” staff members at Wooster Community Hospital. He interacted with custodial staff, nurses, aides, and volunteers who all “went above and beyond” to make his hospital stay and recovery a good experience. He names them one by one: Debi, Brittany, Jo, Janet, Chad, Dr. Rehan, Dr. Southern, Dr. Moodispaw, Dr. Newton — the list goes on. Brad was so pleased with the level of care he received at WCH that he reached out to hospital CEO Bill Sheron, and penned his testimonial.
On August 9th, Bill checked his inbox and got a pleasant surprise. An email from Brad read, “I have used WCH three times for my heart since June, with the first being a life-saving event due to the critical thinking of an ER doc, the attention to detail of a PCU nurse and rapid work of the folks in your Cardiovascular Institute. At every level, the people I experienced have been exceptional. I am so thankful to have your hospital in my community and grateful to the people who saved my life...”
Brad was thrilled to learn that Bill shared the email with individuals within the organization who cared for him. “I’m the owner of a company,” said Brad. “So often we only hear the negative. It’s nice to hear that you’re doing something right once in a while. I’m glad he shared it with them.”
Brad continues to work on his recovery, both physical and mental. He’s learning to appreciate each day God has given him as a “true gift.” He’s learning to “let go” of things he can’t control. And he’s happily sharing with everyone around him what a “gem” Wooster Community Hospital truly is.
One final comment from Brad is that he hopes his story is read by many of his neighbors. “Community after community is losing its local hospital, and we are so very fortunate to have this golden resource here in our back yard.”
In parting, Brad graciously said, “I want to thank my loving wife, Kathy, as she went through the ordeal with me and has been my biggest supporter and best friend.”
After suffering debilitating hip pain from arthritis, Carol Ohl became the first WCH patient to have both hip replacements done at once, thanks to a newer surgical approach.
Carol Ohl is not one to shy away from a good challenge. At the age of 52 she went back to school to study art and eventually opened her own pottery shop on their 38-acre farm in Holmes County. She and her husband, Michael, were “living the dream” sharing their land with horses, goats and llamas when their life changed almost overnight.
Carol woke up one morning to find her previously active and healthy husband “lying on the ground.” He had suffered a stroke at the age of 68 and Carol found herself in the role of caretaker.
Carol and Michael moved to Wooster in the fall of 2016 to be near their daughter and better medical facilities. Michael’s 94-year-old mother joined the household shortly after. Carol is very glad they made the move when they did because a few months later, she was the one facing a health crisis.
At the age of 74, her arthritic hips had simply “worn out.” Years of running, sitting at a potter’s wheel, climbing ladders and lifting heavy glazing buckets had taken their toll on her hips, and in the fall of 2017 the pain was “unbearable.” She found herself faced with another huge challenge.
“I was given the choice to undergo two separate hip replacement surgeries or be the first at WCH to have one bilateral anterior hip replacement surgery,” she said.
It wasn’t a decision she took lightly. Carol didn’t think she could undergo any surgeries and still take care of her husband and mother-in-law, but “I really had no choice,” she said. “It was bone on bone and the pain was getting worse. I couldn’t walk, sit down or lay down without pain.”
Carol turned to her two daughters, her “caring” orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steven Widmer of Wooster Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Center and the “supportive” staff at HealthPoint to get her through. “My two daughters took turns for about six weeks, mostly to care for their dad and of course baby me,” said Carol.
Dr. Widmer explains, “Carol is a great example of how the direct anterior approach in total hip replacement allows me to get patients back to their lives faster. The direct anterior approach has been shown to have a more rapid recovery than traditional approaches to total hip replacement. It also has less precautions with bending the hip after surgery. This as well as how the patient is laying during surgery allows for us to do both hips in a safe and efficient manner and rapidly recover the patient. In Carol’s case, caring for her husband is a big aspect of her life and we wanted to get her back to her role as a caregiver ASAP. It is important to note carol’s dedication to a rapid and safe recovery as well. In addition, her support system made her a great candidate for this procedure.”
Within a few months, Carol was back in her caretaker role and she is so grateful for the part WCH and HealthPoint played in her surgery and recovery. “They literally had me up walking the first day,” she said. Carol spent only two nights in the hospital and was rehabbing within a week. “I haven’t had any hip pain since,” she said. The muscles were a little slower to heal.
“Walking has been the best thing for me,” said Carol. She rehabbed under physical therapist, Erin Ransom and her team. “They challenged me. First they took my walker and then my cane and I realized — I can do this.”
Strong and independent, Carol admits she’s not usually a “rule follower.” But this time she followed instructions to a T and she is glad she did. “The worst part was pre-surgery,” she said. “I had to scrub with an antibacterial scrub all over for five days prior to surgery.” She also had to change her sheets every day for five days. “After surgery I got on some forums and realized how important it was that I did what they said. Because I followed the advice of my surgeon, my incision healed nicely in about five days.”
Carol feels so “lucky” to have found Dr. Widmer. “He was so efficient and kind,” she said. “He knew my circumstances before I talked to him and he assessed that I was strong and healthy and would be a good candidate for the bilateral surgery.”
In hindsight, it was “an excellent decision,” said Carol. “It was one hospitalization, one surgery, one recovery and one bill. It just made sense to me.”
“We’re so fortunate to have a hospital in a community of our size that does joint replacements,” she said. “Their surgeons are so good. Every time we have had to use WCH for surgery or the emergency room, it has been a good experience.”
Back in her role as caregiver, Carol’s situation hasn’t changed. She admits “it’s a tough job” at times. But she remains a fighter and an optimist. She continues to embrace each day. “You can’t always change your circumstances,” she says, “but you can change your attitude. We all have a choice every day whether we’re going to be happy. I simply choose to make the best of it.”
Carol stays in touch in person and by text with her daughters, enjoys the good moments she has with her husband and lives with the assurance that WCH is close by should she need it.
Pain management specialist Dr. Basali and spine surgeon Dr. Yu work together to provide treatment plans for patients suffering from back pain.
With physicians working closely together across disciplines, Wooster Community Hospital (WCH) Health System is able to provide patients with a wide variety of options for managing and alleviating chronic pain.
Dr. Elizabeth Yu is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics Division of Spine Surgery with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Dr. A. Harris Basali is medical director of The Pain Management Institute, conveniently located at the WCH main campus.
The two doctors join forces to offer patients the opportunity to look at all possible avenues available for the treatment and cure of chronic pain.
“The collaboration with myself and Dr. Basali benefits our patients by maximizing all nonsurgical treatment options before surgery, if the patient is a surgical candidate.” said Dr. Yu.
“I can discuss patients on a personal level [with Dr. Yu] and put a treatment plan together,” Dr. Basali explained. “That definitely improves the patient outcome.”
Local patient, Susan Lehman, experienced firsthand the benefits of the care available through this collaboration when she unexpectedly found herself experiencing chronic and severe pain.
“I woke up and had pain along the back of my leg,” explained Susan. “I could hardly bend over more than just a few degrees.”
With the diagnosis of a badly ruptured disc, Susan resolved to try everything possible in an attempt to alleviate the pain. “I was really hesitant about the idea of back surgery,” she said, “I wanted to make sure I tried other things first. I didn’t want to rush into dramatic treatment.”
When physical therapy provided no relief, Susan was referred to Dr. Basali. “I enjoyed working with him. I’m very curious and I wanted to make sure I understood. He was very patient and explained all the different treatment options.”
Dr. Basali performed a selective nerve root block “as a diagnostic tool trying basically to isolate and identify the source of pain. The back is very complicated and the challenge is to identify what really hurts. Joints, ligaments, discs, muscles, nerves – all could be a source of pain.”
This type of procedure assists the surgeon in deciding what type of surgery may be needed, and improves the chances of successful treatment.
“We try to do everything possible to not do surgery,” said Dr. Basali. “Surgery is a last resort. Dr. Yu and I agree on this concept.”
Dr. Basali described three categories of ways his department collaborates with surgeons. “There is before – where we treat and maybe don’t need the surgery. There is diagnostic in preparation for surgery.” And if pain persists after surgery, the two collaborate on that issue as well.
When Susan was still in pain after several months of treatment, Dr. Basali referred her to Dr. Yu. “I really liked Dr. Yu’s interactions,” said Susan. “She said I looked like I would be a good candidate for a procedure she specializes in. She made sure I understood exactly what was going on and all the options.”
The procedure is called a minimal microdiscectomy. “She was able to go home the same day after surgery,” said Dr. Yu.
“It was so convenient to be able to do everything in Wooster,” said Susan. “If I had needed to drive somewhere else it would’ve been so much more difficult.”
Susan explained how the coordination of services between the two physicians facilitated her treatment and recovery. “It was really helpful... the pain management provided by Dr. Basali gave me time to think about the surgery and give my pain an opportunity to resolve. It gave me time to see if my body was going to heal without surgery and helped me figure out what my treatment options should be.”
Dr. Yu shared that “the collaboration between myself and Dr. Basali benefits our patients by maximizing all nonsurgical treatment options before considering surgery.”
“Two brains are always better than one!” said Dr. Basali. “In my opinion, the most important party in this collaboration is the patient.”
The service overall at WCH Health System made Susan’s healing journey one where she could focus exclusively on her treatment and recovery. “I was really impressed. You could tell that WCH Health System has made it their goal to have the incoming patient experience as smooth as possible.”
When making the personal decision to have reconstructive surgery after a breast cancer diagnosis, three patients explain why they chose Dr. James Slaby as their surgeon.
“I think every woman that has a breast cancer diagnosis should have an evaluation by a plastic surgeon to discuss her breast reconstruction options,” said Dr. James Slaby, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Wooster Community Hospital (WCH) Health System. Dr. Slaby is known for his kind and caring manner with breast cancer patients who are seeking reconstruction.
“Plastic surgery is a visual specialty that combines surgical expertise with artistic excellence,” Dr. Slaby explained. “Because of my attention to detail, I am never satisfied and I always strive to be better as there is always room for improvement with both current techniques as well as with future breakthroughs in technique.”
Dr. Slaby is also meticulous in making clear that a patient’s first priority is to take care of the cancer. Next, he stresses that whether or not to have reconstructive surgery is a very personal decision.
“[Breast reconstruction] can help to soften the blow of the emotional trauma associated with a breast cancer diagnosis.” Whether or not to have the surgery is a decision involving many factors. “The important takeaway that I give patients,” said Dr. Slaby, “Is if you want breast reconstruction, you deserve it.”
Christine Schafrath is a patient of Dr. Slaby’s and has experienced firsthand his expertise and his personable bedside manner.
“He made me feel so at ease,” said Christine. “He’s an incredible doctor.” After four years and numerous surgeries, Christine definitely knows her reconstructive surgeon.
Christine’s journey with breast cancer began in 2013 with a lumpectomy and radiation. She had hoped it would end there. However, in 2016, she found herself facing a double mastectomy.
Several surgeries were required to complete the reconstruction. “Dr. Slaby did a great job through all the hard times,” said Christine. “He makes you feel like he has all the time in the world for you.”
Another of Dr. Slaby’s patients, Cyndy Maglio’s breast cancer story began in 2010. It started out in a familiar way – Cyndy was used to being sent for a recheck after her yearly mammogram. It was always nothing. This time? “I was told I needed to do a biopsy just to make sure,” she said.
The results came back and Cyndy was shocked at a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma. “I went religiously to get checked because every one in my family has had cancer.”
When Cyndy received her diagnosis, one of her sisters was being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She had already lost two sisters, her parents, and a grandparent to cancer.
“At this point in time, all I could think about was that my mom had died of breast cancer that had gone to the brain,” Cyndy explained. “Back then, there was no reconstruction and I had always told myself that if I ever had anything, I would do something about it.”
As soon as she discovered her cancer would require a mastectomy, Cyndy began to plan for reconstructive surgery. “I really wanted to stay here in the area, yet they insisted it would be good to get a second opinion.”
She traveled to Cleveland for the consult. “It felt very cold to me. It just didn’t feel comforting.”
In contrast, Cyndy described her first visit with Dr. Slaby. “I probably looked like a scared rabbit,” she laughed. “It was like they took my hand and guided me through the whole thing. Dr. Slaby was so calming. He told me what to expect. He described everything that would happen. If I didn’t understand, he explained it further.”
Another patient found comfort in the surgeon’s impromptu humor. When Melissa Wise found a lump in 2009, she was referred to Dr. Slaby for reconstruction. According to Melissa, Dr. Slaby has his own unique style of helping his patients relax. “He’ll make you laugh,” explained Melissa. “He has a nickname – the rapping doctor. He does whatever he can to put you at ease!”
Part of Dr. Slaby’s knack of putting patients at ease is the fact that he encourages patients to contact him with any and every question. “I will help them decipher the information that can sometimes feel like information overload,” he said.
Dr. Slaby is a shining example of the personal connection that is pervasive with the care
“When I woke up from my surgery,” Cyndy shared, “He was there. He treated me with such kindness and respect. He is one of those gems you find in the middle of a haystack – a kind, caring man.”
Melissa Wise has been appreciative of her entire WCH Health System experience. “Everybody has been so wonderful,” she said. “They are so kind. They helped get me back on my feet.”
With the help of rehab and regular doctor visits, David Fleming was able to vastly improve his lung function through WCH Pulmonary Services.
It turns out those commercials were right – when you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it does “feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest,” said David Fleming, of Rittman. And David should know; he’s been fighting that diagnosis for the past seven years. With grit, determination and the help of some “fantastic Wooster Community Hospital (WCH) Health System doctors,” David has turned what was a “death sentence” into a story of hope.
David, who owned and operated Top Notch Painting for 25 years, first noticed symptoms of the disease in 2010. While he used to climb 40-foot ladders with ease, he began to feel “winded” when he got to the top, and it progressed to where he didn’t know if he had the energy to get back down.
“I’d have to sit under a tree for a while to recover,” he said.
Thinking it was a heart problem, David got checked out and was a bit surprised to get the COPD diagnosis. In the next few years, “it moved progressively and swiftly,” said David and by 2014 he was on oxygen full-time. His symptoms continued to worsen and he was assigned palliative and then hospice care.
In 2016, he ended up with pneumonia in the WCH emergency room, but strangely enough, this is where he ended up with hope. He met Dr. Bruce Arthur and Nurse Practitioner Christina Muller and they changed his life.
They worked with his medications and put him on a nutritional program so he gained weight, which allowed him to take part in the pulmonary rehabilitation program. In six months, his lung function had improved to where he qualified to be put on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.
“David listened to our advice and put forth 100 percent effort to control his own health,” said Christina. “He has been compliant with medications, communicated early when he noticed symptoms of respiratory illness, and committed to pulmonary rehab. His success is an inspiration to all, and the credit completely belongs to him.”
His last pulmonary function test (PFT) showed improvement “by leaps and bounds,” said Christina. “Our goal is typically to maintain lung function, but in this case he had seen several improvements. Back in 2015, David was using a wheelchair to get around; he didn’t have the breath to walk even short distances. He was debilitated. He now has improved his functioning to actually exercising above and beyond normal activities of daily living.”
Dr. Arthur is optimistic about David’s future as well. “When patients are actively participating in their own care, great things can happen.”
David was the perfect patient for pulmonary rehabilitation in that “he had a lot of self-determination and the desire to get better,” said Jim Freehahn, Clinical Manager of Cardiac-Pulmonary Rehabilitation. “Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a long-term commitment and you have to be dedicated and compliant with the program.”
The program is 60 minutes long, consisting of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of educational instruction three times a week.”
“The education was just as helpful as the exercises,” said David. “They taught me how to breathe, relaxation techniques, how to handle stress and gave me nutritional advice.”
“These rehabilitation programs don’t make a lot of money for the hospital but they’re crucial for a patient’s health,” said Jim. “I give the hospital administration a lot of credit for offering these services. It’s very unusual for a hospital of this size to offer all the programs we do.”
Since opening a practice at WCH a little more than three years ago, Pulmonary Medicine of Wooster has “tried to do things a little differently,” said Dr. Arthur. “We have 30-minute appointments to facilitate education of patients. We attempt to empower patients through education to take control of their health care. We don’t focus on the past, just actions that can improve health moving forward.”
“We’ve seen a lot of success stories like David’s,” said Jim, and “we’ve seen a lot of successful transplants. It’s a tough regimen and you have to be committed to following through. A transplant patient will do pulmonary rehabilitation before and after their surgical procedure, and it requires specific protection such as anti-rejection medications, but David’s determination and compliance make him an excellent candidate.”
David credits WCH for saving his life. “I never felt like my doctors saw it as just a job,” he said. “I went through most of their departments and I was never treated with anything but respect. Before I found WCH, I was going downhill fast. I thought I was dead. Now I have hope. I have the best doctors and health care I could ask for and I owe them everything.”
After a stroke and multiple surgeries, WCH’s Transitional Care Unit helped Bob Schmidt get the compassionate care and therapy he needed to get back to his daily life.
The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. The liver and intestinal linings regenerate and the skin replaces itself daily. Yet, with certain injuries, the body becomes its own worst enemy.
This was the case in Bob Schmidt’s life after he suffered a stroke at the age of 53 and found himself in a fight against his own body. Now, a “miraculous little pump” that drips Baclofen into his spinal cord is letting his muscles relax and work with, not against, his body.
Bob’s story began last March, when the Wooster native was living a very full life. He enjoyed his job as a salesman for Dex Media and participated in many hobbies, including biking, bowling and playing soccer, tennis and golf. When he wasn’t participating in sports himself, he could be found cheering for Ohio’s many sports teams, often courtside.
March of 2018 didn’t seem unusual except Bob had what he thought was a severe case of GERD. “It felt like really bad heartburn,” he said.
The next day, he collapsed at home. What Bob thought was heartburn turned out to be an aortic dissection, and he was airlifted to an out-of-town facility. As the helicopter blades whirled in his ears, he was unaware how his life was about to change, and had no idea that he wouldn’t set foot in his home again for eight months.
“Bob underwent a 9-hour surgery to repair the aorta,” said his wife, Brenda. He spent the next few days recovering in Cardiac ICU, closely monitored. Then, Bob suffered another blow.
“He stopped responding to us, and tests revealed he had suffered an ischemic stroke,” said Brenda.
His doctor recommended removing part of his skull to relieve pressure on the brain. Brenda and other close family members made the difficult decision to proceed, even though his chest cavity was still open and healing. “We really had no choice,” Brenda said.
The next month was a blur of surgeries, a temporary tracheotomy and respirator, and waiting for his body to stabilize. After a few months in an inpatient rehabilitation center, Bob was moved to the Transitional Care Unit at Wooster Community Hospital. Bob was never so glad to see Wooster.
“If I had known that Wooster Community Hospital offered some of the services that they do, I would have come back sooner,” he said. “They have been fantastic to work with. I would have loved to have been closer to home.”
Here, he had to relearn how to stand, walk and use his muscles. He also met physical therapist Kelly Yarman and Dr. Ayman Basali, a pain management specialist — two godsends who changed his life.
“A stroke can affect the brain and block messages between the brain and muscles, which hinders the recovery process,” says Dr. Basali. This was the case with Bob. His muscle spasticity caused muscle stiffness and tightness that interfered with his ability to walk.
“I had reached a plateau in PT and Kelli suggested I look at a Baclofen pump,” Bob said.
In November, Dr. Basali inserted the pump under Bob’s abdominal wall. The pump began dispensing small doses of Baclofen to a targeted site in Bob’s spinal cord.
“It’s an effective way to deliver the medication and can usually be given at lower doses than oral medication, which reduces side effects as well,” said Dr. Basali, currently the only doctor in the area who performs this procedure.
“Our goal was to get Bob off of oral meds to minimize side effects like drowsiness and fatigue,” Dr. Basali says. “Intrathecal therapy is permanent; however the pump will need to be changed every 5-7 years by a minor outpatient procedure.”
Bob was finally able to come home in late September. He remembers it felt “fantastic” to cross the threshold of his home after being away for so long. He is slowly feeling the Baclofen relaxing his muscles. Kurt Gerschutz, his WCH Home Health physical therapist, works with him three times a week for an hour and a half. Bob is still working on walking normally. In particular, he has to retrain his left foot not to cross in front of his right foot.
He is working with a speech and occupational therapist as well. While it’s all hard work, the “fantastic” staff at WCH and a “miracle” drug pump, gives Bob hope he will get his mobility and independence back. And he will never again take one day for granted.
This past Thanksgiving, Bob celebrated his 54th birthday. While the past year has been challenging, Bob says there is much to be thankful for. He is grateful for his wife, who has been a stalwart at his side fighting for him the whole way. Family and friends have offered prayers, visits, meals and fundraisers. Slowly but surely, Bob is making progress. “I’m alive, I’m progressing and I have hope,” he said.
Dr. Basali is pleased with Bob’s response to the treatment. “Intrathecal therapy can also be utilized for other medications for various conditions,” he said. “Wooster Community Hospital has always been supportive of new and advanced evidence based treatment modalities.”
Patients Terry Schenck and John Estill are thankful to have a Cardiac Device Clinic nearby, as WCH is the only facility in this area to offer such services.
The heart is an amazing organ. Every 60 seconds, it pumps about five quarts of blood through a system of vessels that if stretched out, would be over 60,000 miles long. It beats about 100,000 times a day and continues its stealthy but steady work day and night.
Aging or heart disease can damage your heart’s ability to regulate its pace. “A problem with the heart’s natural pacemaker or the wires carrying the impulses can cause a slow heart rate and can be a sign that your heart needs a little help,” said Sue Raber, RN, who has managed the Cardiac Device Clinic at the Wooster Heart Group since 2013. Sue is specialty trained in defibrillators and pacers and her expertise ensures that area residents no longer have to go out-of-the-area for pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and follow-up care.
These implantable devices need follow-up care, said Sue. “One to two weeks after the device is implanted, patients need to return for an incision and device check and for follow-up instructions. Every three to six months after that, the devices need to be routinely checked so adjustments can be made, if necessary.
“We offer these services five days a week,” said Sue. “Patients have the choice to be seen personally or we can monitor their devices remotely using a box that transmits information from their pacemaker to a secure website through cellular towers or Wi-Fi. We check the devices to ensure proper function and to optimize for the patient’s needs.”
And Terry Schenck, of Wooster, is sure glad the Cardiac Device Clinic was there for him this past year. Without the pacemaker Dr. Cyril Ofori implanted into his chest last year, he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have lived to see the new year.
Terry, age 67, who has a history of longevity in his family, noticed his heart rate kept going down during the fall and he was feeling dizzy. When his heart rate decreased to 30 beats per minute he called Dr. Paul Moodispaw’s office and they scheduled a visit. A few hours later they called him back. “We need to see you tomorrow,” he recalled them saying.
They scheduled surgery for a pacemaker to be implanted by Dr. Ofori. Terry had the surgery and went home the next day. “Terry was a good candidate for a pacemaker because pacemakers generally treat slow heart rates or uncontrolled heart rates,” said Dr. Ofori.
“Immediately I felt great,” Terry said. “It was just a 45-minute procedure under local anesthesia. I was awake and joking with the staff before and after the procedure.” Four days later, it was no laughing matter.
Terry and his wife were enjoying seafood at an area restaurant when he had an allergic reaction to the seafood. “I was shaking, started swelling up and had hives all over.” He went straight to the ER at WCH, where they diagnosed his allergic reaction and treated him. His blood pressure had dropped. “If I didn’t have the pacemaker in, I don’t think I would be alive today,” he said. “The pacemaker kept my heart rate up until I could recover.” He is very grateful to Dr. Moodispaw for recognizing his heart problem and getting him sorted out.
Today, Terry is back to feeling great and taking care of his 15-acre farm. Chopping wood, mowing, and acting as a handyman for a nearby veterinarian is his workout plan. “I don’t do treadmills,” he said. “I’ll never use one, but I do enjoy keeping in shape working on the farm. I hope to go through quite a few more (pacemaker) batteries.”
John Estill of Millersburg is another patient who is grateful for the acute heart care he was able to receive locally. The retired systems analyst felt great until he hit his 60s. “Then my health started going downhill,” he said. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001 and shortness of breath followed. A longtime smoker, he gave up smoking and did fairly well until a heart catheterization in 2003 revealed stenosis in his heart passageways. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 2003 and continued to be monitored over the next few years by Dr. Ofori.
In 2015, Dr. Ofori, who noticed John’s “heart muscle was very weak after his heart attack and bypass surgery,” suggested it was time for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Two bouts of pneumonia finally convinced John to get the implant. He had it implanted locally by Dr. Emile Daoud from The Ohio State University. Dr. Daoud is chief of electrophysiology at OSU and collaborates with the Wooster Heart Group physicians. He has been implanting defibrillators at WCH for more than seven years.
“Defibrillators can do all that pacemakers do and more, including shocking people out of life-threatening rhythms” said Dr. Ofori. “They serve as your personal CPR and are most helpful in people who have a weak heart muscle.”
“There is a sense of security in knowing it’s there,” John said. “I appreciate that Dr. Ofori is proactive and watching out for me. I have a great relationship with him. We’re on a professional but friendly basis, which I like.”
John’s advice to others today is “If you don’t smoke, don’t start and if you notice symptoms, get it checked out. Don’t think it will never happen to you. If it does, thank goodness care is close by.”
“Being able to treat acute heart problems locally prevents people from having to drive to Akron or Canton,” said Sue, who came to the clinic with more than 20 years of cardiac device experience. “We run a full-service pacemaker defibrillator clinic here and also collaborate with The Ohio State University.”
Currently, Sue is monitoring hundreds of heart patients and has seen the number of patients tick up considerably since 2013. “We are the only facility offering these services locally since the Cleveland Clinic stopped their service. Devices have become an important part of treatment of heart disease and they have improved the lives of hundreds of area residents.”
Dr. Oleghe not only treated Julia Blaker for an infected foot at the WCH Wound Center, but helped her improve her life in general.
Every once in a while in life one has an “epiphany” moment. It happened to Julia Blaker last fall in Dr. Efewongbe Oleghe’s office at the Wound Healing Center where she was being treated for an infected foot. While Dr. Oleghe gently removed the dead skin layers from her toes, she suggested that perhaps there could be a connection between her ailing foot, Julia’s diabetes and her overall health.
“Through her gentle questions and my answering honestly, I was slapped in the face with the fact that this could be where my problems stem from,” said Julia. “I just didn’t connect the two before.” What a difference that “connection” has made.
Julia’s story began in November 2017 when she and her husband, Larry, set out to visit her daughter and grandson in Connecticut. They spent much of their time together in the hotel pool. While her foot was “swollen and sore” when she got there, by the time they left for home it was unbearable. “I was curled up in the back seat sleeping most of the way home,” she recalls.
By the time she got to her previous physician, her vitals “were not good. My blood pressure was high and I was afraid I would lose some of my toes,” she said. Her doctor put her on strong antibiotics and sent her to the Wound Healing Center, where she met Dr. Oleghe.
As soon as she met Dr. Oleghe, she agreed with her husband that she was “in good hands.” Dr. Oleghe did a culture on the foot and diagnosed a fungal and bacterial infection, perhaps something Julia had picked up in the hotel pool. And that was when Dr. Oleghe suggested there may be a connection between Julia’s diabetes and her foot problems.
“She felt the diabetic medication I was on was not working well for me and said I should consider changing or adding another medication,” said Julia. Julia was eager to see what she could do with diet and exercise and while Dr. Oleghe had some concerns, “she was definitely my advocate to give it a try.” Julia’s husband was also a huge support.
Larry got her a Fitbit for Christmas and Julia started tracking what she ate, the steps she took and how much sleep she was getting. She aimed for 10,000 steps a day, 1,700 calories or less, and 7 hours of sleep. With a Fitbit, “there’s a new template when I wake up every morning,” said Julia. “If I didn’t have the greatest numbers yesterday, I have a new chance to achieve my goals today. Focusing on each day keeps this journey from being insurmountable or overwhelming.”
In less than a year, Julia lost 70 pounds and learned how to better control her blood sugar and blood pressure with food and exercise.
Today, her foot is back to normal and she feels better than she has in years. She and Larry are enjoying time with family and friends, gardening, working outside on the family farm in West Salem where they live, and traveling for work and pleasure.
She credits Dr. Oleghe for her amazing journey of discovery and recovery. “I know I wasn’t, but I felt like I was her only patient,” Julia said.
She remembers after her annual checkup in March, she got a personal call from Dr. Oleghe. “It turns out she was at a conference in Orlando and yet when she saw my numbers and how good they were, she was so excited for me that she just had to call and let me know. She tells me I’m her poster child patient.”
Julia appreciated Dr. Oleghe’s interest in her vitamins and supplements and other holistic remedies as well. “She would take the time to read each bottle and was very open to natural treatments.”
Julia can’t say enough good about Dr. Oleghe. She was so impressed with her that she took her on as her primary care physician. Yet Julia has learned the lessons of self-responsibility as well and has some “tips” for others struggling with health issues. “First, it is very important to find a doctor that you feel is your partner and advocate. Listen to their advice; then ask yourself the hard questions of what steps can I take to start improving my health?
“Dr. Oleghe helped me to see beyond my infection, to consider the big picture, the state of my overall health, and she gave me options. From there, it was my responsibility to decide what actions I would take. I’m here today to share it is never too late to take the first step to better health.”
A less-invasive wound vacuum procedure helped Gary Klepper avoid surgery for a deep wound in his calf.
Gary Klepper believes in angels, because he’s seen them at work in his life this past year. They took many forms: his wife who called 911, his neighbor who responded to his cries for help, a doctor who let him try and heal a gaping wound without additional surgery or skin grafts, and especially the “fantastic” home health staff who took his calls at all hours, day and night. And, true to their name, they made house calls!
Gary became acquainted with this doctor and home health staff after he suffered a life threatening injury last spring. He was in his barn attempting to pull apart two baskets when he lost his balance and fell against a shovel blade. The blade sliced his calf from top to bottom, leaving a cavernous wound and a layer of skin that was barely hanging on. As Gary watched the blood gushing out, he had two thoughts: “I knew I was going to bleed to death if I didn’t get help right away, and I was grateful for the medical alarm device that I had recently purchased that was in my pocket. I hadn’t used it yet and I was hoping it worked.”
The alert did its job and Gary’s wife called 911. A neighbor heard him call for help and came and wrapped a towel around his leg to stem the bleeding. Medics arrived within 10 minutes, recalls Gary. They whisked him away to the WCH emergency room where he required surgical intervention and received 48 stitches in his calf. After that, it was up to Gary to clean and dress the wound and watch for signs of infection.
Two days later, Gary said he “could smell the wound and the gauze felt wet to my touch and I knew it was infected.” Back in the emergency room, they removed his stitches, cleaned out the wound and made another game plan. Gary met with Dr. James Slaby, who specializes in wound healing and plastic / reconstructive surgery. Instead of pushing for another surgery and skin grafting, Dr. Slaby was open to trying a wound vacuum, or vac, procedure.
“I was thrilled when I heard this,” said Gary. “If I could avoid surgery, I wanted to give it a try. It saved me from another surgery, skin grafts, and losing my leg. I’m glad I went this route and I would highly recommend it to anybody.”
“A wound vac is about the size of a standard tissue box that is portable and battery operated,” said Connie Rebane, the director for the Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing Center at WCH. It “provides negative pressure through suction to draw healthy cells to the surface. It supports healing by reducing swelling, removing excess fluid, reducing the wound size and helping the migration and formation of healthy cells and tissue. A wound vac is ideal for patients like Gary with large and/or deep wounds to expedite the granulation and closure of the wound.”
Gary also helped himself by being a “great patient,” Rebane said. “He followed the physician’s orders, maintained weekly wound care appointments and made lifestyle changes to reduce his risk of trauma wounds.”
The challenge was that the procedure required multiple visits to the wound center each week, but Gary had given up driving a few years back. That’s when the “angels” in WCH home health came on the scene.
The home health staff came out three times a week to check on him and change the dressings. Any time Gary had questions or concerns, they were there. “I remember calling them in the middle of the night with questions,” said Gary. “If we couldn’t get it figured out over the phone they’d say, ‘I will be right there.’ And they were — at any time of the day or night.
“They were never grouchy or irritated,” said Gary. “They were the greatest people and I started calling them my ‘angels.’ They were also so courteous and accommodating and would call ahead to schedule visits. They got me set up and ordered all my supplies. It looked like a pharmacy in my room.”
They were also quick to notice when something didn’t seem right. On one visit, his nurse had a feeling “there was just something wrong,” said Gary. He hadn’t been feeling all that great and it turns out he had a temperature and cellulitis and was back in the hospital for four days.
Home Health is available for those with “skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational or speech needs,” said the director of Home Health Services, Alexsandra Davis. “In Gary’s case, he had a wound that was not healing and needed nursing to do teaching, dressing changes, and monitoring signs and symptoms of an infection.”
The affection Gary had for his caregiving staff went both ways, said Davis. “Gary was very engaged in his own care and followed instruction and recommendations from the physicians and home health nurses. Because of his engagement, he did have a great recovery. In as much as he appreciated the home health staff, we also appreciated his confidence in us.”
In addition to home health visits, Gary met with vascular surgeon Dr. Larry Stern and his staff weekly. Dr. Stern and his workforce were “always knowledgeable and pleasant,” said Gary.
His last home health “angel” visit was in September, and Gary is feeling pretty good right now. He is back to walking his corgi shepherd daily, enjoying his family, taking care of his two-acre property and feeding the birds. “I probably go through 400 to 500 pounds of bird seed a year,” he said.
But there are some things he doesn’t do. “I’m much more cautious now,” he says. He doesn’t use a chainsaw much anymore and he’s aware that a fall can happen “just that quick.” He’s grateful for God, his three sons and his wife, Marty. And in spite of the difficulties this past year, he’s glad he got to meet a “caring doctor and my home health angels,” he said. “I just adored them.”