Jean Stafford | Bypass & Valve Replacement Patient | Center for Cardiac Care

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Jean's Story

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Jean Stafford, By-pass & Valve Replacement Patient

In early 2014, Jean Stafford of Weare was preparing for heart by-pass and valve replacement surgery. Then, she learned she might have lung cancer. Cardiac surgeon Dr. Gerald Sardella called in partner Dr. G. Darby Pope, a cardiothoracic surgeon, to collaborate on treating Jean’s three potentially life-threatening conditions.

It was during the comprehensive preparation for Jean’s heart surgery that an X-ray detected a lung mass. The attention to detail for Jean’s cardiac care enabled Dr. Pope to detect and remove the lung cancer before it could spread. After the X-ray, Dr. Pope ordered a PET scan, which was negative. He was not convinced.

Rather than subject Jean to a second surgical procedure to obtain a lung sample, Dr. Pope performed a biopsy while Jean was in the
operating room for her heart surgery.

The biopsy confirmed cancer. Six weeks later, as Jean recovered from successful heart surgery, Dr. Pope removed part of her lung with a minimally invasive procedure called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). In the procedure, surgeons are aided by a small video camera inserted in a patient’s chest via a scope.

Jean, who is 69, was impressed by the teamwork between Drs. Pope and Sardella of CHMG Cardiothoracic Surgery to repair her heart and diagnose and treat her cancer.

“They worked well together,” Jean said, “And it was nice not to have to have a separate biopsy procedure.”

Everyone involved in her cardiac and cancer care eased Jean’s stress in preparing for surgery.

Dr. Sardella implanted a mechanical aortic valve and by-passed a clogged artery, restoring Jean’s normal blood flow. From Jean’s perspective, everything from diagnosis to treatment and follow-up went smoothly, especially because of the cardiac team’s skill at putting patients at ease.

“They make you feel like you are the only patient they have,” she said. “They are cheerful about situations that could be pretty miserable and scary.”

Aside from being prescribed a blood thinner and having monthly appointments to monitor the medication, Jean said the cardiac surgery has left her with few restrictions.

“I never think about my heart valve,” Jean said. “I do almost anything I want to do. I shouldn’t be moving a couch, but I’m okay with that.”

She also has recovered well from her cancer surgery, with regular appointments to monitor her lungs.

Today, Jean is enjoying her time with her grandchildren on the soccer field and celebrates her own team-approach successes.