Leverett resident Peter Zimmerman considered himself an active, healthy person and at 73-years-young, he loved gardening and playing with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. On top of that, he was looking forward to his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Life was good.
Then he noticed when he worked in the yard, he needed to rest quite frequently. Concerned, Peter went to see Baystate Health cardiologist Dr. Steven DiPillo who knew Peter from previous visits for his irregular heart rate (AFib) and other heart conditions. This time, Dr. DiPillo suspected Peter had coronary artery disease, a serious, even deadly, condition.
A cardiac catheterization with Dr. Ashequel Islam confirmed Dr. DiPillo’s suspicion. A few hours after the procedure, cardiac surgeon Dr. David Deaton met with Peter and explained that he needed open-heart surgery.
TOP-NOTCH CARE CLOSE TO HOME
Peter’s grown children urged him to go to a hospital in Boston for the procedure but Peter wanted to stay with Dr. Deaton. “I felt comfortable with Dr. Deaton and appreciated his humble nature given his incredible success as a cardiac surgeon,” Peter says. It was also important to him that his wife, Ann, be able to come home and sleep in her own bed during the time he had to stay in the hospital.
On the day of surgery, Peter’s family waited at Baystate Medical Center as Dr. Deaton operated with his expert clinical team. Not long after he began, Dr. Deaton stopped the surgery and paid the family a visit in the waiting room.
It’s rare that a surgeon interrupts an operation in this manner but Peter required a more complicated procedure than had been expected. In addition to the planned five-way bypass, Peter’s aorta, the body’s main artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body, needed repair.
FAMILY AND DOCTOR WORK TOGETHER
Dr. Deaton wanted Peter’s family involved in the decision to do the longer, riskier surgery. They had to make a difficult decision without input from Peter who was asleep in the operating room awaiting Dr. Deaton’s return. “I am honored that they trusted my opinion and agreed to proceed with the larger operation,” Dr. Deaton said later.
Dr. Deaton really saved me,” Peter says. And every single person I dealt with, whether they were my nurse or they cleaned the floors, was helpful and wonderful. It was fantastic to see how dedicated they were, Peter adds.
“I also liked the hospital food, particularly the broccoli cheddar soup, and was impressed when the person who took my lunch orders went out of her way to get it for me when it wasn’t on the menu,” Peter says.
WALKING DOWN THE AISLE?
As he recovered, his goal was walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. He worked hard on his walking exercises, building his strength, determined to succeed. And, only 17 days after surgery, with a little help getting into a suit on the wedding day, he did. “It was pretty awesome to be able to do that!” Peter says.
Peter feels great now and is doing his rehabilitation at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, determined to stay within the Baystate Health family for his care.
Thinking back on what could have been if he hadn’t had his symptoms checked out, he says, “I’m extremely grateful to be here.”