Patient Testimonials and Reviews
Arthur Ruffino – Photographer, World Traveler.
Travel and photography have always been passions in my life. On New Year’s Day of 2013, I was on top of Machu Picchu. In April of the same year, I booked a 26-day world segment cruise originating in Dubai with ports of call in Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, the Suez Canal, Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Montenegro, and ending in Venice. From Venice, I flew to Palermo for a land tour of the island of Sicily. Subsequently, I flew to Milan to visit relatives. In December and January of 201 3-14, I embarked on a one-month cruise of Hawaii and the South Pacific.
And in late March/early April of 2014, I visited Guatemala. Retirement from a teaching career had enabled me to travel at will rather than being restricted by an academic schedule. I was enjoying revisiting locales or visiting new destinations. By then, I had visited over 100 countries. But in May of 2014, everything came to a clashing halt. I was having dinner with friends. After the main course, I was talking to the host when all of a sudden I had a feeling that I was going to faint. I knew that I could not avert it. Fortunately, the host noticed that I was beginning to collapse and broke my fall. When I was revived, 911 was called, and I went to the hospital.
At first, I thought I was dehydrated, but when my cardiologist, Dr. Keith Meyer, came to see me at the hospital, he told me that the problem was not dehydration but my heart. He told me that I had two options: do nothing, with the caveat that I could faint again, but that the next time it could be fatal, or undergo surgery to have a defibrillator implanted. I opted for the latter.
One day, a few months after the surgery, I was shocked by the defibrillator three times. I called 911 and went into the emergency room at Good Samaritan Medical Center. There I was visited by Dr. Meyer and the newly arrived David Weisman, a cardiac electrophysiologist. Dr. Weisman suggested the insertion of a new defibrillator, one with three wires as supposed to two. The surgery was performed, and shortly after I returned home. Some months later, I once again started having episodes. An ablation was performed with little avail. Dr. Weisman and Dr. Meyer both concluded that I needed to see an advanced heart specialist. Dr. Weisman referred me to Dr. Phillip Habib, a transplant cardiologist specializing in advanced heart failure.
On February 26, 2015, I visited Dr. Habib at Delray Medical Center. He scheduled me for a six-minute stress test. I was not able to last for more than three minutes. The irony is that I used to take pride in my ability to walk for hours, especially if I was traveling. Dr. Habib noticed that my face was grey and that my lips were purple. He knew that it was just a matter of time before my heart gave out. I had not realized that my condition was so grave. Because of my age I didn’t qualify for a heart transplant. Thus, my options were either LVAD (left ventricular assist device) surgery or Hospice Care. I chose the LVAD surgery.
Dr. Habib immediately admitted me to the hospital and arrangements were made for the surgery awaiting Dr. Brian Bethea’s return to the hospital. Dr. Bethea, a cardiac surgeon, implanted a mechanical pump that attaches to my heart, enabling it to pump blood more efficiently. My LVAD surgery performed by Dr. Bethea at Delray Medical Center was the first one ever done in Palm Beach County.
After the surgery, I had a team of 12 doctors and nurses taking care of me. To say the least, I was pampered. The medical attention that I received at Delray Medical Center could not have been better. The staff watched over me like a hawk, especially Dr. Bethea and Dr. Habib. Dr. Bethea visited me frequently after the surgery to see how I was doing. He was always pleasant, soft spoken, and positive. He constantly complimented me on how well I was doing.
Dr. Habib visited me like clockwork every day. He watched over me like a father and was extremely protective of me. I would have no hesitation to recommend him and Dr. Bethea for the LVAD procedure. They make a great team.
Today, I wear a harness with battery packs which weighs about five pounds. A small computer worn around my waist monitors my heart. The batteries pump blood to my heart and the information is sent to the computer and directly to Dr. Habib so he can monitor my vitals. The computer records everything; it also lets me know if the batteries are low. I always carry backup batteries and a spare system controller in a small black bag everywhere I go.
At night when I go to sleep, or if I’m watching TV for an extended period of time, I transfer to a power module plugged into an electrical outlet in the wall. The power module has a 24-foot -cable which allows me to move about in a room. I sleep connected to the power module preventing any danger of batteries exhausting during my sleep.
Recently, I took a cruise around the southernmost portions of South America, from Buenos Aires, around Cape Horn, through the Strait of Magellan, the Chilean fjords, to Valparaiso and ending in Santiago, Chile. The highlight of the trip was an excursion to Torres del Paine National Park. I got to see the majestic mountain peaks that had enticed me ever since I first saw pictures of them. It was a very expensive excursion requiring a flight by small plane. Nevertheless, I was able to get a view of the mountains and in the process cross off another destination from my bucket list.
Watch Arthur’s Story
Peter Bohnsack, cashier at Penny’s for heaven, member Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, leader of Architecture Committee.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I was moving debris at my home in Louisiana, when I hurt both of my hips, I would need surgery to repair the degeneration in just a few years and sure enough during a physical, prior to being considered for orthopaedic surgery, my doctor noticed atrial fibrillation (AFib) or an irregular heartbeat. I had to have the AFib fixed first because no one’s going to operate on you with a fluttery heart. I was referred to my cardiologist, Dr. Craig Vogel, for a cardioversion, a procedure where a cardiologist uses electric paddles to shock the heart back in rhythm.
I did comment while I was in the office of Dr. Vogel that I felt fatigued at times, which was more or less an indicator. We had gone to the Holy Land for 16 days in March and there was one day I decided to just rest. When you’re walking up and down all those steps and through the streets of Jerusalem it can be very tiring. I was tired but my wife and I are in shape. We walk a lot and did so before this trip. I didn’t understand why I was fatigued and thought it must be something else.
About two weeks after the cardioversion procedure, I went in for a check-up with my primary care physician and was informed the AFib had returned. My primary care physician referred me back to Dr. Vogel. I was given a couple of names of doctors specializing in minimally invasive heart surgery. I talked to them and chose Dr. David Weisman, not only for his perspective, but for his plan of bringing in Dr. Neil Galindez in for a two-step process they recommend called the Convergent Procedure.
They do two things, one procedure is up through the arteries to the heart and the chambers and another procedure operates on the outside of the heart where there could be some problems. In my case, Dr. Weisman maneuvered a catheter used for cardiac ablation, up through my arteries and into the heart’s chambers to discover and fix any issues causing weakness inside of my heart. Then, Dr. Galindez performed minimally invasive surgery to repair cardiac ailments he discovered on the outside of my heart.
I had gone to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center early in the morning for the convergent procedure. I remember during the pre-op, the staff told me they were giving me something to relax me. The next thing I know, I woke up in recovery with Dr. Weisman and Dr. Galindez coming into the room to check on me immediately after I woke-up. I was very impressed with that quick of a follow-up. The doctors were interested in how I was doing and took the time to talk to me. Over a couple of days, on a regular basis, they kept checking in to see how things were going with me. The doctors had talked, informed and updated my wife, Julie, of my status immediately after the procedure. She was happy with the care I received. That reinforced my belief that I made a good choice of choosing these physicians.
Four days later, I felt a lot better. The days and weeks after the procedure, I stopped feeling most of the fatigue that I had previously felt. I’ve gone back to walking and exercise. I have had a few follow-up appointments at Dr. Weisman’s and Dr. Galindez’s office in Palm Beach Gardens. The office staff is very nice. Even when I come bopping in unannounced to drop something off for Dr. Weisman or Dr. Galindez, when I’m on this side of town, the office staff is very courteous and easy to get to know on a name-to-name basis.
Dr. Weisman is very positive and I was really impressed with Dr. Galindez’s expertise. I don’t remember ever really having any pain from the surgery. Everything is minimally invasive, even when Dr. Galindez operates on the heart from the outside of the heart. I just had a small incision below my breast plate. It’s amazing what they can do now with the tools they have available to them. I remember hearing just decades ago, where in heart surgery, surgeons had to break the rib cage to get to the heart during surgery.
Most of my activities pivot around the Good Shephard Episcopal Church in Tequesta. I’m also head of the architectural review committee at the condominium complex that I live in. Four days after my convergent procedure for AFib, I was back at church doing the things I love.
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