High Marks for The Cleveland Clinic

I would have been online and posting sooner, but the Internet connection and router here at the Sight Center is spotty, so I’m seizing the moment.  (That is why this entry may not be spelled all correctly–the connection is a bit jerky, and I’m typing so fast that I’m like the skilled Linotypers of old–they often had to stop and let the machine catch up to them.)

We’ve completed the round of doctor visits and lab tests for today.  Steph and I meet with Dr. Lytle, the actual knife-wielder, tomorrow afternoon.  The physician we did meet, Dr. Brian Griffin,(pictured–sorry, too good to resist!), was a 60ish guy with an Irish accent, and he took all the time we needed to answer questions, compile medical history, etc.  It was much better than the doctors at Riverside who spoke with us for 5-10 minutes with their eyes on their watches the entire time.

The news is a mixed bag.  Steph’s heart situation is much more serious than the Riverside doctors led us to believe.  Dr. Griffin said that it is not realistic to think the valve can be salvaged.  (I came away from the April hospitalization pretty sure that the valve was toast, but the doctors held out hope that it was saveable.)  Aside from replacing the valve (either with a mechanical or human valve–they won’t even make the determination until they have Steph cut open!), there is muscle building up and hardening around the valve, and there will also be a membrane resection.

Paradoxically, even though there is much more wrong than we were led to believe, we feel much better about Steph’s chances of recovery because of the good feeling we have working with this surgical staff.  We were immediately at ease when we heard that we were the second of Dr. Griffin’s two appointments today, so he wasn’t in a rush-rush-rush mode.  We were ahead of schedule on all of her tests, and they decided one could be skipped.

Deja vu–If you go back to my blog at the time of Steph’s April hospitalization, I mentioned watching Rachael Ray’s show in the waiting room, where she went lingerie-shopping with two men who were buying for their wives.  That same one was running today!

Cleveland, Here We Come????

 I am typing this in the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.  Susie is at Portia’s (one of the home-school moms) house for her geography lesson, and I came here via Riverside Methodist Hospital’s South Medical Building.  Steph and I went to see her cardiac surgeon.  This surgeon was Dr. Duff, who performed Steph’s operation in ’99.  He did such a good job on that surgery–Steph was out of the hospital about 10 days early and sailed through rehab–that Steph wanted him to do this one, too.

Steph’s friend Chrys drove her to the appointment.  I worked a half day and then took the COTA bus to meet them.

We spent maybe five minutes with him today.  He came in with Steph’s very thick folder and read through the reports of Steph’s recent trip to Riverside.  He thinks there is a slight chance that Steph’s heart valve is salvageable–he wants to go to any length to keep Steph from having to take Coumadin (or other blood-thinners) for the rest of her life.  At the same time, as we learned earlier, the muscle around the site of the valve is hardening.

Dr. Duff seems to be reluctant to perform this operation.  So, he is mailing Steph’s records to a surgeon he knows at the Cleveland Clinic, where they are more familiar with both types of operations.  (Between the time when Susie was born in October ’97, until she finally went under the knife in February ’99, no surgeon was willing to commit to a date and time for her surgery.  We considered writing to the Cleveland Clinic then and seeing if they would be willing to do it.)

The Cleveland Clinic has, for at least 12 years in a row, been the #1 heart hospital in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.  Their Website is http://www.clevelandclinic.org, which I looked at as soon as I logged onto this computer.  That’s both bad and good.  Yes, I want Steph to get the expert care that’s necessary for something as rare as this.  I’m worried, though, that so do a lot of other cardiac patients.  I’m already envisioning a waiting list for surgery that stretches from here to Lake Erie.  (I thought scheduling surgeries would be like trips to the Emergency Room, where anything heart- or brain-related gets bumped to the front of the line.  In scheduling surgery, the patient must be in imminent danger to get an operation quickly scheduled.)

And the biggest problem is that the Cleveland Clinic is in… well, it’s in Cleveland.  That would mean added hours going back and forth during the surgery and the recovery.  I do not drive, so I’d be either riding with friends or going Greyhound.  The worst of it will be that Susie will be even more panicked than she is now.  Not being able to see Steph daily and know that she is getting better will cause her to worry even more, even if she spoke to Steph by phone every night.  I would not be able to afford a long hotel stay, especially with an unpaid leave of absence.  Even if Susie can’t come daily, it would help Steph’s healing to have daily in-person contact with family and friends.

So, there’s nothing we can do now, and nothing to really report, until the doctor in Cleveland has read over the voluminous record and then decides when he’ll see Steph.  We’re hoping he can do her consultation over the phone, but they can’t reap co-pays for phone calls.