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Published on December 12, 2016

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery Gives Cone Health Employee New Perspective

Keith WeathermanAfter an unexpected coronary artery bypass grafting, Keith Weatherman understands firsthand the exceptional care delivered by his fellow employees.

Keith Weatherman in Front of Cone Health's Heart and Vascular Center

Keith Weatherman thought he knew what to expect when he walked through the doors of The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in January 2016. The 62-year- old had been experiencing chest pain. His cardiologist, Peter Jordan, MD, was planning to perform a nonsurgical procedure to open a blocked artery in his heart. Weatherman had undergone the same procedure eight years before, so he was already familiar with what it involved.

Then he got the surprise of his life.

Jordan discovered that Weatherman actually had five blockages impeding blood flow to his heart. Suddenly, Weatherman was being told that he needed surgery right away.

“I was stunned to find out that what I thought would be a fairly routine procedure wound up being much more serious,” Weatherman says.

By 6 a.m., Weatherman was on his way to the operating room for coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG; pronounced “cabbage”), a type of heart surgery that helps blood more freely flow to heart muscle.

Weatherman spent five nights at Moses Cone Hospital.

“It was a scary time,” he says. Even during one of the toughest weeks of his life, Weatherman says that he and his family always felt supported by those around them, from the physicians and nurses to the housekeeping and food and nutrition staff.

“Everywhere I looked, there was somebody wonderful who really seemed to care,” he says. “I was wowed at every turn.”

One-stop cardiovascular care

If you’ve been to Moses Cone Hospital recently, you might have seen Weatherman. He’s worked since 2014 as the hospital’s patient access manager, leading a team that guides patients through the admissions process to their destinations for care and rehabilitation. But Weatherman says that seeing the hospital from the perspective of a patient was an eye-opening experience.

One thing he noticed right away was how well his cardiovascular needs were met in a single place. Originally, Weatherman had come to the Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center at Moses Cone Hospital expecting to receive a coronary angioplasty and stent, a nonsurgical procedure wherein a clogged artery is widened with a balloon and a small mesh tube is implanted to hold the artery open.

When the plan suddenly changed, Weatherman didn’t need to look far to find a top-flight cardiothoracic surgery team to perform the coronary artery bypass grafting. The proximity made it easy for Weatherman’s surgeon, Peter Van Trigt, MD, to work closely with his cardiologist.

After being discharged, Weatherman returned to Moses Cone Hospital as an outpatient three days per week for eight weeks to take part in cardiac rehabilitation. This program provided supervised exercise, education and counseling that aided his recovery.

“The cardiac rehab folks inspired me to really make myself stronger,” Weatherman says.

The common thread: caring

During his hospital stay, Weatherman was impressed by the caring attitude of everyone he met.

“The nurses frequently asked about my pain level,” he says. “The lab technician and radiology technologist explained what was being done and why. The transporter who took me to X-ray was friendly. My wife even fell in love with the cafeteria staff and food.”

Today, Weatherman’s recovery is going well. Just months after his surgery, he’s able to do yard work, walk two miles daily and play trombone in a Moravian band.

He’s also back at work—though he says one thing has changed.

“Now,” he says, “my wife will call and say, ‘Can you get some soup from the cafeteria and bring it home tonight?’”

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