Stu Bruce: Beebe team instills confidence for active living
Stu Bruce woke up early one warm September day and drove to the Tower Road beach where he swims several times a week during warmer months. He felt great as he headed into the water.
“A few strokes in, I could feel something was off. I normally do four strokes, then breathe, then four strokes,” Stu recalled. “But, on this day, I noticed I could only do one or two strokes before I needed a breath.”
After trying to work through it, he realized he should get out of the water. “I thought maybe I would just catch my breath and go back in, but as I stood there on the beach, I realized I better not risk it,” he said.
Getting over the dune and back to his car to drive home took some time. “I’m a pretty healthy guy. I swim several times each week and I golf regularly, so when I couldn’t catch my breath – even after just taking a few steps – I should have recognized that something was really wrong,” Stu said. “At home, my wife immediately went into nurse routine.”
His wife, Linda, is a retired nurse practitioner. “She was on the phone and had an appointment for me to see my cardiologist, Dr. Rosa.”
At Cardiovascular Consultants, the office of R. Alberto Rosa, MD, Stu and Linda were told it could be a heart event, and they were sent to Beebe’s Emergency Department for some tests. Stu still didn’t think it was a big issue.
The tests did show a possible heart event, so Dr. Rosa decided to perform a cardiac catheterization on Stu to open the problem vessels.
“I remember being on the table and seeing the looks on their faces as they were looking at my heart on the monitor. I knew it was something more complicated then,” said Stu. He and Linda were told that Stu would need open heart surgery.
Kurt Wehberg, MD, of Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery, came to meet the couple and explain the procedure. Since Stu was so sick and was taking an anti-coagulant, he had to wait seven days – in the intensive care unit – until he could have surgery.
“We had so many questions, and Dr. Wehberg stayed to answer all of them. He was very reassuring, and we felt completely confident in him and the Beebe team,” Stu said. “One thing that Dr. Wehberg said really stuck with me. He said that if my car had been any farther away, it could have been a disaster. I might not have made it.”
Having to stay in the ICU for nearly a week prior to surgery gave Stu time to make plans and reflect.
“The thing about being in the ICU … you have a lot of time on your hands. That can be good and bad,” he said. “My daughter came and my wife came often, but there are still big chunks of time where you are by yourself. I used the time to really reflect and think about my life. I also thought about what I still wanted to do – almost like prioritizing what you will do if you make it through to the other side. You think of your children and grandchildren, and hope that they would be alright no matter what happens.”
Finally, surgery day arrived. Dr. Wehberg performed open heart surgery and completed bypasses in Stu’s heart. The surgery went very well, and afterward, Stu spent several more days in the intensive care unit. He joked that it was almost like going home, because many of the nurses and care providers already knew him.
After surgery, Dr. Wehberg and Brian McCarthy, PA-C, came to talk with Stu about the recovery process.
“They gave me this heart-shaped pillow that had the anatomical drawing of a heart printed on it. Dr. Wehberg took a pen and drew exactly what he had done to my heart right on the pillow,” Stu said. “Then he told me that this pillow would be my new best friend because it would protect my incision.”
Following open heart surgery, it is important for patients to place the pillow between themselves and a seatbelt. They are also told to press it to their chest if they feel a sneeze or cough coming on.
“The entire team at Beebe are now like family. Everything is so well-organized and streamlined. We always felt extremely well cared for,” Stu said. “Linda and I are so grateful to everyone who took part in my care and surgery.”
Following surgery, Stu slept in a reclining chair for several weeks and had regular visits from Beebe Home Care Services and physical therapists. He joined the Beebe Cardiac Rehab program and completed all of his sessions successfully to graduate. He is now part of the Phase 3 program with Cardiac Rehab.
“We never questioned our decision to have the surgery at Beebe. We are confident in the team, and now, as I am continuing to exercise at Beebe Cardiac Rehab and getting back out on the golf course, I know it is the team at Beebe and the care I received that give me the confidence to continue living my active life. We are so blessed to have Beebe right here in our community.”
As a community-based, not-for-profit healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare depends on the generous support of individuals, local businesses, corporations and private foundations. Contact Beebe Medical Foundation to make a gift: www.beebemedicalfoundation.org or 302-644-2900.