Heart Patient Joanne Beechey

Finding the Right Heart Care While Moving to a New State

All Patient Stories, Heart & Vascular, TAVR

It can be daunting to face heart surgery. Joanne Beechey would know. Over the past four years, she’s had multiple procedures to address three different cardiovascular conditions: coronary artery disease (CAD), aortic stenosis and peripheral vascular disease (PVD). In the midst of this, she moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Delaware, so finding a medical system and doctors she could trust was of utmost importance.

CAD is the most common form of heart disease in Americans. Aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve, frequently occurs in conjunction with CAD in older adults. Despite an open-heart surgery only three years ago, Beechey was told she might need another procedure. Plus, the vessel bypass she’d previously had for her PVD, a common circulatory condition where plaque buildup restricts blood flow, was failing, causing her excruciating leg cramps.

Exploring Bayhealth’s website led her to Interventional Cardiologist Roberto Scaffidi, MD, Vascular Surgeon Paul Fedalen, MD, and Chief Cardiothoracic Surgeon Gary Szydlowski, MD. Interventional cardiologists specialize in catheter-based methods to treat heart abnormalities. Some, like Dr. Scaffidi, also provide general office-based cardiology care and collaborate with cardiothoracic or vascular surgeons when surgery is required. Shared electronic health records and consistent communication between care teams provide a seamless patient experience.

Beechey had heard about the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure and liked using MyChart at her former doctor’s office in Pittsburgh. “There was an instant connection when I saw Bayhealth offered both,” she said.

After relocating, her symptoms — extreme tiredness and shortness of breath — returned. A cardiac catheterization revealed Beechey’s heart murmur and aortic stenosis were now severe. She underwent a successful TAVR procedure by Drs. Szydlowski and Scaffidi in June 2019. “TAVR is a major advance, providing a less invasive surgical alternative to traditional open-chest surgery. We’re proud to be a regional leader with the program we’ve built here,” said Dr. Szydlowski. Bayhealth first offered the minimally invasive procedure in 2016. While it was recently expanded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in lower-risk patients, Beechey’s conditions and past surgeries made her high-risk.

“Her leg vessels were of secondary concern, so we shifted focus to that,” said Dr. Scaffidi. “In October, Dr. Fedalen performed a vessel bypass and I did stenting to improve the blood flow. She’d had a lot of difficulty getting around and noticed an immediate improvement afterwards.”

Beechey is relieved to have more energy and mobility, and no longer needs oxygen therapy. “Finding new specialists isn’t easy. I lucked out,” she said of the Bayhealth physicians she found, noting they’re not only very thorough and good at what they do, but also personable with wonderful bedside manners. “The physician assistants and nurses were also terrific and answered all my questions. I was so impressed with everyone at Bayhealth — even the young woman from food services remembered me by name in the hospital. This is what good healthcare is supposed to be like.”