A team with heart: Patient recounts journey through multiple aortic repairs with UAB’s Cardiovascular Institute

A team with heart: Patient recounts journey through multiple aortic repairs with UAB’s Cardiovascular Institute
Photo Credit: UAB University Relations

It was just another ordinary, early morning for Patrick Jones. While his wife, Debbie, was out attending to a sick horse on their South Carolina farm, Patrick ambled to the kitchen to make his daily cup of coffee. That journey to the kitchen would be the last thing Patrick remembered until he regained consciousness with Debbie by his side, as paramedics loaded him for emergency transport.

Patrick had suffered from the complications of an ascending aortic aneurysm, which was causing swelling and weakening of the primary blood vessel that distributed blood away from his heart. After 10 hours of open-heart surgery in South Carolina, doctors informed Debbie that he had survived the worst and the aneurysm was repaired, but Patrick wasn’t out of the woods just yet. He had additional aneurysms along the remainder of his aorta, including the portion with branches to his brain and arms, as well as the segment with branches to the intestines and kidneys.

“The whole process was physically rough on Patrick. After wrapping up the lengthy case, the vascular surgeon told us that they saw damage and there would be further issues to address, but we didn’t receive direction on where to go afterward,” notes Debbie.

After recovering from surgery and experiencing added health concerns, Patrick and Debbie found themselves seeking further treatment with the South Carolina VA, when they heard that there may be minimally invasive options to treat his remaining disease. When Patrick had further enlargement of his aorta and developed pain and concern for impending rupture, Patrick’s healthcare team referred them to the closest study center with the appropriate capabilities– the Cardiovascular Institute (CVI) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

After a whirlwind overnight trip by ambulance for Patrick and a car ride down the next morning for Debbie, they knew they were in the right place for Patrick’s aortic repairs when they met with UAB Division Director of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy Adam Beck, M.D., and UAB Cardiothoracic Surgery Assistant Professor Kyle Eudailey, M.D.

Together, Drs. Beck and Eudailey worked with the Jones family to establish a care plan and scheduled Patrick’s first surgery to repair the portion of his aorta with branches to his brain and arms using a minimally invasive technique with stents.

 “We were blown away by the level of care. We still keep up with some of the staff that took care of us through surgery,” says Patrick. “When we got ready to leave after my first surgery, the nurse took time out of her day to personally transport us downstairs and make sure we were settled for the long ride home.”

Along the journey, Debbie and Patrick were pleased to realize that their cardiovascular care team was with them every step of the way.

“After his first procedure, we were struggling to find Pat the right primary care provider, who understood his health history and could provide the level of care he needed. Dr. Beck went above and beyond his duty to answer care questions via text when we were away from UAB and even noticed on his CT scans that Patrick had diverticulitis and referred him to the specialist he needed to see,” said Debbie. “When we were settled at home, Dr. Beck pointed us in the right direction and connected us to a primary care provider for Patrick.”

Patrick later underwent another procedure for his thoracoabdominal aneurysm within Dr. Beck’s physician-sponsored investigational device exemption trial for custom-designed aortic grafts. Patrick and Debbie now feel that they have a lifelong connection to UAB and the surrounding area. Their favorite activity when they arrive back for follow-up visits is to try out the many restaurant recommendations they receive from the CVI team. The Jones family credits Dr. Beck with helping them find their favorite pizza place that they look forward to visiting after appointments.

Back home, Debbie and Patrick make sure to look out for friends who might be experiencing similar cardiovascular issues. On the occasion, they have forwarded Dr. Beck’s and Dr. Eudailey’s videos on the UAB MD Learning Channel to help loved ones navigate complex diagnoses and vascular problems.

“It takes a very special person to be able to perform such a complex surgery and also explain it in terms that everyone can understand,” says Debbie. “Both Dr. Beck and Dr. Eudailey do just that, and we are happy that we can share what they taught us with our friends to make the process easier for them, too.”

Over three years after his initial procedure at UAB, Patrick is grateful for the care he received and the CVI faculty and staff who have now become family to him and his wife.

“I couldn’t recommend anyone more than UAB’s CVI team. They have provided exceptional care and have made sure we understood every part of the process,” says Patrick. Always in bright spirits and quick with a witty remark, Patrick also shares, “The new lining in my aorta does make a pretty cool X-ray to see, too.”

Source: UAB News

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