The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

His heart problems were complex but WellSpan has a treatment for that

His heart problems were complex but WellSpan has a treatment for that

Ed Schmitt ran into a neighbor in Stewartstown he hadn't seen in a while. As it turned out, the man had suffered from a heart attack and had been out of circulation while he recovered from it. 

"We were talking, and he told me his symptoms before he had the heart attack," Ed recalls. "He said how he was dragged out, tired, short of breath." 

A lightbulb went on for Ed, an 80-year-old retired Baltimore City firefighter. 

"I was feeling that way too," he said. "I would walk up a set of stairs and I would almost be out of breath. I didn't want to do anything. I would wake up in the morning and already be tired, like everything was dragged out of me." 

Ed saw his doctor and, it turned out, he was having heart issues too and they were complicated ones. He had blockages in four of his heart vessels, including one that was completely blocked. Because of his age and underlying conditions, including a history of previous heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, Ed was not a good candidate for heart bypass surgery, which is often used to find new pathways for blocked vessels in the heart. 

That is how Ed ended up as a patient of the new WellSpan Complex Coronary Program, which offers specialized treatment for patients like him, who have a challenging mix of blocked vessels and complicated medical histories. The program is part of WellSpan's advanced heart and vascular program, which offers leading-edge care including heart and vascular surgery, valve treatments, atrial fibrillation appendage treatment, electrophysiology treatment for heart rhythm issues, genetic testing, a heart failure program, and more. 

The WellSpan Complex Coronary Program team reviews patients' medical history and develops a treatment plan to treat their blockages. WellSpan cardiologists Dr. Rhian Davies and Dr. Stewart Benton have the expertise to use balloons to open clogged vessels and place stents, tiny wire mesh tubes that prop open a vessel, in these complex patients during a series of carefully planned out procedures, often done over several months. 

The team enjoys seeing the effect of the treatments on patients. 

"These are patients who have chest pain or shortness of breath and are living with the pain, which can be debilitating," Davies said. "Often these are people who can't work and can't do what they normally do. They are just sitting at home, which can be depressing for patients. We care about the patient's heart but also about their whole life. We want them to be healthy and happy." 

Ed finished his treatment this fall at WellSpan York Hospital. Now he's looking forward to using the free weights, stationary bike, and rowing machine in his basement. He is working on losing some weight. He wants to stay well for his wife of 60 years, his son, and his two granddaughters. 

"I'm so happy I got this treatment. I have more energy and feel so much better," he says. "I want to be around for a while and I'm glad I'm feeling good."

Learn more about coronary artery disease, including more information about the WellSpan Complex Coronary Program, in a free Heart Month talk being held Feb. 15.