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A Perfect Role Model – One Family, Two Heart Surgeries

Posted on Sep 11, 2012

When Dick Henry found out that he needed open heart surgery, he was not afraid. His sole focus was on setting the best possible example and recovering quickly for a very special young person in his life – his 11-year-old granddaughter, Ella.

Dick Henry and his granddaughter, Ella, are enjoying life again just one year after their heart surgeries.

“Ella was born with a heart condition and was going to have open heart surgery soon after me,” says Henry. “I knew I had to do well for her sake.”

Henry had been under the care of PAMF cardiologist Joel Friedman, M.D., who recently retired, for the last seven years because of an irregular heartbeat and a calcifying aortic valve.

“I started feeling increasingly tired and was having a hard time getting through work and daily life,” says Henry who is a residential/commercial mortgage broker in Los Altos. “When Dr. Friedman told me it was time to replace the aortic valve, I wanted to schedule the surgery as soon as possible.”

Henry is no stranger to life-threatening health conditions. He has survived and continues to thrive after three serious procedures: the removal of a tumor on his acoustic  nerve, a kidney transplant, and, most recently, open heart surgery.

“About every twenty years – at 30, 50 and 70 – my health and life has been in critical danger,” says Henry. “But each time I got through it because of the timely advances in health care and the outstanding doctors. I’m living proof of what’s possible when you have access to excellent medical care.”

Due to his previous kidney transplant Henry received coordinated, multispecialty care from Dr. Friedman, PAMF cardiothoracic surgeon Conrad Vial, M.D., and PAMF nephrologist Tony Gottheiner, M.D.

“When I first met with Dr. Vial to discuss my surgery he was very reassuring,” says Henry. “He carefully and thoroughly explained every step of the procedure. I was also very impressed with the well-orchestrated team approach to my surgery. I really felt that my health and well-being were an absolute priority.”

Dr. Vial chose minimally invasive open heart surgery, called a partial sternotomy, as the best choice for Henry. The chest is only opened 4 inches, rather than the usual 12 inches required for conventional surgery. The smaller incision promotes faster healing and a speedier recovery.

After his surgery in May 2011, Henry was ready to see Ella.

“When Ella came to see me in hospital I had my game face on,” says Henry. “I told her: ‘Look Papa had open heart surgery, it’s not so bad – you can do this, too. The doctors will take really good care of you, like they did of me.’ I knew this was an important task I had to get right.”

Both Henry and Ella have since recovered successfully from their respective surgeries and are enjoying life and good health again.

“My surgery has given me a new lease on life,” says Henry who recently celebrated his 70th birthday with his family – and Ella, of course. “I have so much more energy. I exercise each morning, take walks, do yard work, play  golf and am back at work. I have the highest regard for PAMF and their team. I can never thank PAMF enough for their dedication and quality care.”