It’s so very good to be alive
Many wonderful people at Beebe have been a part of Michael Strange’s lifesaving care. Michael’s story begins with his first visit to cardiologist Dr. Ramon Alberto Rosa several years ago.
“I had a bout of supraventricular tachycardia, and my wife drove me to Beebe’s Emergency Department in Lewes. After treatment, I was referred to Dr. Rosa,” said Michael. “Dr. Rosa took my blood pressure and it was high – in the 150s over 100. My cholesterol numbers were also too high. Dr. Rosa told me I had to go on medication to help control my blood pressure and my cholesterol. I was concerned because I have allergies to a lot of medications. I asked Dr. Rosa if there were any other options.”
The Ornish Program had not yet been implemented at Beebe Healthcare, so Dr. Rosa recommended a different program. Michael read about it and realized he needed to change his diet. His efforts seemed to be helping until one Sunday night in January 2016 when Michael had chest pains.
“My wife, a retired nurse, knew exactly what was happening,” Michael said. “She called 911 and put four baby aspirins into my mouth. When the EMTs arrived at our home, they gave me a nitro tablet. Everything happened so quickly once I arrived at Beebe. On Monday, I had a stress test. On Tuesday, I had a cardiac catheterization. On Wednesday, Dr. Rosa told me I had three blocked arteries, and I was going to need an open heart procedure.”
Dr. Ray Kuretu, one of Beebe’s cardiothoracic surgeons, asked Michael about scheduling his surgery, and Michael took a right-now attitude. Dr. Kuretu went to check on availability, and when he returned, he said, “Michael, how about tomorrow?’”
“When Dr. Kuretu performed my operation, he found five blocked arteries. I needed a quintuple bypass and then recovered in Beebe’s ICU. Five days after surgery, I was released and I felt great. But after two days at home I had a stroke, which left me with Broca’s aphasia. I was actually very lucky. Broca’s aphasia can be as bad as not being able to understand words at all. I had a fairly mild form; I just can’t find the right words at times,” Michael explained.
“Because I was already following a heart-healthy diet, Dr. Rosa suggested that I would be a great candidate for the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease. I was told that Ornish was a total vegan diet. What I have learned is that it is much more than that. Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is a multipronged approach to stop the progression of, and even reverse, heart disease,” Michael said.
Making the lifestyle changes required by Ornish Lifestyle Medicine takes work, but Michael said, “If you follow the program, it can take 30 to 35 days to successfully make the change. I found it very easy to evolve, and I believe it was because of the people who helped me through: Chef Miguel Cuevas, Deb Dobies, Julie Tugend, Tracy Tarr, and Colleen Hruska. These amazing people personally taught me the four pillars of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine: exercise, mindfulness, stress management, and diet.”
Chef Miguel Cuevas taught Michael how to enjoy food without feeling deprived. “Ornish is a soy-based program, and we quickly discovered that I am highly allergic to soy,” said Michael. “Registered Dietician Debra Dobies and Chef Miguel worked with me to modify the program to an oat-based diet. They worked closely with me to create new recipes, using different ingredients and spices that complemented oats. They taught me to prepare wonderful meals. Even though Ornish is a standardized program, they worked with me to customize my program to meet my allergies and special needs, without violating the core principles.”
Because of the stroke, Michael had limited range of motion in his left arm. “Julie Tugend modified the exercises I would do to continue to build my strength,” he said. Since exercise also helps with stress management, he said, “When I came into the program, Colleen Hruska ran the stress management component. My range of motion was limited by a previous injury, so I started in a chair. Colleen worked with me and gradually stretched the limits of what I could do. Eventually, I was able to transition from the chair to working on a mat on the floor.”
After Michael finished learning Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, he said, “My cholesterol levels were fantastic and have gotten even better as I continue to follow the program. One of the things that I did do, after discussion with Dr. Rosa, was to follow my ‘hybrid’ of the Esslestyn, Pritkin, and Ornish programs. I researched the science behind all of these programs and decided for myself to include some white meat chicken and salmon in my diet for the healthy fats.”
Everything was going very well until February 2019, when Michael had another cardiac episode and two weeks later, another stroke. He continued to tell his story and share how he felt about his most recent Beebe experience and the quality of care he received the second time around.
“Everyone I spoke with at Beebe - my Emergency Department doctors, my neurologists, my hospitalists, my physical and occupational therapists, my nurses – everyone said to me, ‘Michael, for your age and for what happened to you, if you had not been following your heart-healthy program, you would not have survived these events,’” Michael said. “That says it all. It’s so very good to be alive.
“My wife and our family doctor have said for years, ‘You have to listen to your body.’ If you don’t listen to what your body is trying to tell you, that’s when you get into trouble. I had been in denial for 55 years, but by taking the advice of Dr. Rosa in August 2015, then listening to my body in 2016, and changing my lifestyle to follow a heart-healthy program, I am still here today. And I plan to stick around for quite some time.”
Beebe Healthcare has been awarded Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation recertification for 2019 through Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, the first and only program scientifically proven to not only treat, but reverse the progression of heart disease through comprehensive lifestyle changes. The recertification assesses the integrity of a site’s program delivery, including clinical outcomes, clinical delivery, team competency, engagement effectiveness, and patient and provider satisfaction. By providing this Medicare-approved program, Beebe Healthcare is able to increase non-invasive treatment options for patients and physicians while motivating participants to make positive lifestyle changes.
Michael is a Beebe Believer and has supported Beebe Healthcare for more than 12 years. The Beebe Medical Foundation is extremely grateful for Michael and Nan Strange’s loyal support. As a community-based, not-for-profit healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare depends on the generous support of individuals, corporations, businesses, and private foundations.
All gifts to Beebe Healthcare, large or small, are tax-deductible and are channeled through Beebe Medical Foundation. To make your proud personal donation or to learn more about Celebrate Excellent Care, go to www.beebemedicalfoundation.org/cec or contact the Beebe Medical Foundation at 302-644-2900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.