The story of a family who have all had surgical procedures at Westchester Medical Center.
By David Levine
Most families have a lot in common, but few have the bond shared by the Hartnetts of Mahopac.
When Luisa Hartnett, 67, underwent emergency heart surgery last fall, she became the third member of her family to undergo surgery at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “This highlights what Westchester Medical Center does,” says her cardiothoracic surgeon, Joshua B. Goldberg, MD. “We, as a medical community, help our patients and their families through the wide spectrum of medical issues that may arise at all stages of their lives.”
The Hartnetts’ story began more than 25 years ago. Luisa, a retired middle school teacher, and John, 67, a bus driver, have three grown children and one grandchild. When their son Michael was 5, he developed a 105-degree fever from a severe urinary tract infection. A urologist at Westchester Medical Center discovered that his ureters, which connect the kidneys to the bladder, were not in the normal positions. Surgery corrected the malformation, and he’s been problem-free since.
Fast-forward to 2010, when John had an echocardiogram and cardiac catheterization that showed three blocked cardiac arteries. He was sent to Westchester Medical Center for more tests, which showed that one of his arteries was 90 percent blocked. John had triple bypass surgery at the medical center, and, like Michael, now 32, has had no further problems.
Finally, in September 2017, Luisa faced a health crisis requiring surgical intervention. One night, as she was getting ready for bed, she felt a pain in her right leg. She didn’t think much of it at the time: “At my age, you step wrong, you twist an ankle,” she says. It still hurt the next day, but the day after that she found herself short of breath. “I was making the bed and huffing and puffing,” she says. She went to see her internist, and while being examined, she felt lightheaded. “I told the nurse I was going to pass out, and I went boom!” she says.
Luisa was taken to a local hospital, where a CT scan and X-rays showed a pulmonary embolism, a blockage in the artery to the lungs. “I was in and out of consciousness, but I remember they told us we needed to get to Westchester Medical Center. They were ready for us,” she says. “The next thing I know, they put me in a helicopter to transport me. I said, ‘I’m closing my eyes; tell me when we get there.’” Coincidentally, that day happened to be her 46th wedding anniversary. “My husband now teases me and says he got me a helicopter ride for our anniversary,” she says, laughing.
Dr. Goldberg met them at the hospital. “Patients with pulmonary embolisms like Mrs. Hartnett’s are teetering on the edge of a cliff,” he says. “The embolism causes shortness of breath but also profound and significant heart failure that can result in sudden cardiac death. When she arrived, her heart was really struggling and on the brink of failing.”
He explained the situation to Luisa and John, and they consented to a surgical procedure called pulmonary embolectomy. During open-heart surgery, Dr. Goldberg removed the clot from the main pulmonary artery and its branches. The operation took about four hours, and Luisa spent a week or so in ICU. “The next few days were a blur to me,” she says.
In all, she spent 32 days in the hospital. Dr. Goldberg attributes her smooth recovery in part to Westchester Medical Center’s unique approach to treating pulmonary embolisms. “We are very aggressive with surgical removal of clots,” he explains. “It is an almost instantaneous fix with our strategy, and we have had significant success with patients with these embolisms.”
Count Luisa among these successes. “When I saw her after she had left the hospital, she told me she’d gone home and made an astronomical amount of ravioli for her family,” Dr. Goldberg laughs. By January, she was back to normal activities.
Her family’s third experience with Westchester Medical Center, she says, was as satisfying as the first two.
“I can’t praise the nursing staff enough, all three times,” she says. “They were wonderful for my husband, son and me. I don’t know what we would have done without them. The aides, the nurses, the doctors, the whole staff were so wonderful, so attentive and caring. When I was in the ICU, in a bad state, they were there all the time — even the cleaning staff was always there.” She adds that by the time she was discharged from the hospital, “I knew the names of everybody on the floor, all the shifts. I tell everyone to go there. Every time I’ve been to Westchester Medical Center has been a wonderful experience.”
“The whole family benefited from the high-level expertise of Westchester Medical Center and the personalized care that we provide to each and every patient,” says Dr. Goldberg.
CARDIAC CARE AT WMCHEALTH
Westchester Medical Center 914.909.6900
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital 914.909.6900
MidHudson Regional Hospital 845.483.5720
Good Samaritan Hospital 845.368.5620
HealthAlliance Hospitals 845.210.5600
Photos By Kenneth Gabrielsen