Some 200 people turned out April 19 for St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Center's sixth annual Renewed Hearts Reunion. Of those, nearly 80 were patients who have undergone heart surgery at St. Elizabeth Health Center in the past year. The rest were family members and friends of patients, as well as the team of physicians, nurses and other clinicians who cared for them.
Hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Fulton and Dr. Ray D. Crouch, cardiothoracic surgeons at St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Center, the reunion celebrates the second chance at life that these patients were given, and their resolutions to live heart-healthy lives.
"There are many things that we, as individuals, can do to keep our hearts healthy maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, not smoking, eating well. Caring for our patients is a privilege, and the best reward we can receive is for them to live healthy, happy, productive lives following their surgeries. With this reunion, we celebrate that," says Dr. Fulton.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Dr. Jeffrey Fulton, left, and Dr. Ray Crouch, right, celebrate with Lal Teckchandani during the Renewed Hearts Reunion. Teckchandani, a resident of Poland, is among some 500 heart attack survivors to attend the reunion over the past six years.
Lal Teckchandani, a Poland resident who underwent heart bypass surgery in December 2010 at age 58 delivered the keynote address, sharing his "patient story." He told the crowd how he'd been shoveling snow and felt a twinge but didn't think much of it. Then, a couple of weeks later, he collapsed while running through the Pittsburgh airport with suitcase in hand. When he came to, Teckchandani said he didn't remember collapsing.
"I sensed something was wrong, but it wasn't enough to disable me in any way," he said.
By coincidence, he was scheduled to see his family doctor later that day. When he explained to his physician what had happened, the doctor immediately sent him to the emergency department at St. Elizabeth . He was admitted, underwent a stress test the following day, and single bypass surgery the morning after that.
Teckchandani says that despite a history of heart disease in his family, he is not the type of person he expected would be at risk for heart attack. He wasn't overweight, didn't have high cholesterol, consumed a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and walked regularly.
Since his surgery, Teckchandani says life is better than ever.
"My energy level is way up I have a lot more energy." He returned to work five weeks after his surgery and a short time later joined a gym where he says he works out "vigorously."
Since the Renewed Hearts Reunion was introduced in 2007, collectively more than 500 heart surgery survivors have taken part.