“When I arrived at Baystate Medical Center by ambulance,” David Robb says, “the pain in my chest was crushing. In the Emergency Room, cardiac surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Shuhaiber explained to me and my wife Barbara that I had only hours to live if I didn’t have surgery. He also said he couldn’t promise the surgery would save me.”
The severe pain in the 70-year-old’s chest, along with a pounding feeling in his head and jaw, had started the night before at his home in Cummington, MA. When he didn’t feel any better the next morning, his wife called an ambulance which rushed David to the nearest hospital. A doctor there recognized the seriousness of the situation and sent David to Baystate Medical Center’s Emergency Room.
David’s condition, an aortic dissection, meant there was a tear in a layer of the large blood vessel (the aorta) that branches off the heart. Blood was surging through the tear and filling the rest of the aorta which already contained a rupture in one area. If the blood-filled aorta continued to bleed, it would be fatal. “Patients don’t survive these traumas without emergency, high-risk surgery,” Dr. Shuhaiber says.
COMPLICATED SURGERY AND A HUG
David agreed to the surgery. “We knew Dr. Shuhaiber was going to do everything possible to make this come out right,” Barbara says. “Before the surgery, Dr. Shuhaiber shook hands with David and our two sons and I said, if you don’t mind, I really need to give you a hug. I’ll never forget that he gave me a big hug.”
In addition to repairing the torn aorta and replacing the aortic valve, Dr. Shuhaiber operated on David’s pre-existing condition of atrial fibrillation. It was a complicated surgery and required significant team work by Baystate Health’s Heart and Vascular Critical Care team.
“Dr. Shuhaiber saved David’s life,” Barbara says. The operation took several hours and all of David’s conditions were successfully repaired. “We hold Dr. Shuhaiber in the highest regard and I’ll never forget him as long as I live.”
CAREGIVERS FROM MANY DEPARTMENTS AID IN RECOVERY
“It’s not just the surgery that allowed Mr. Robb to do so well but also the postoperative care led by Cardiac Surgeon Dr. Daniel Engelman, kidney support from our Nephrology team and, above all, our dedicated operating room and intensive care nurses and our assistants.” Dr. Shuhaiber says.
“They knew how important David is to our family and they worked like the dickens to get him better,” Barbara says.
David remained at Baystate Health for almost a month for rehabilitation which included several days of dialysis. “The nurses and Dr. Engelman always informed us of what was going on. Everyone took the time to talk with us,” David says.
NURSES GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
Ask the Robbs about the nurses and they begin reeling off memories. Patrick Shinoda was amazing. It seemed like he never ate lunch — he was always with David, Barbara says. There was also Mia Surreria-Jacintho who left him a card one day to cheer him up. “We still keep in touch with her,” David says. And then there was nurse Taylor Whelihan who worked on another floor but would visit after her shift. “She was one of my kids in the second grade!” Barbara, a former school teacher, says.
“They’re all brilliant people,” Barbara says. “They work hard. The creative problem solving. The magic. Even the receptionists when you came in and the lady that cleaned the room everyday made you feel good.”
A NEW APPRECIATION FOR LIFE—AND MAKEUP
Now home, David says he has a new perspective on life. “It’s hard to believe I was told I could die and I didn’t. I used to get more upset about certain things but I take things as they come now. I appreciate the little things like knowing I can walk outside and feed the birds,” he says.
Even after David left the hospital, Baystate Health caregivers continued to help him heal. Baystate Health visiting nurses came to the Robb’s home to provide rehab services.
If I had not had life-saving care at Baystate Health, David says, I would not have been here to have holidays with Barbara and the rest of our family, meet my older granddaughter’s new boyfriend or play with my three-year-old granddaughter, David says. “She likes to put powder and makeup on me. I don’t have much hair but she does hairdos too!”