Good surprises await Sentara heart patient Tom Morehouse
Tom Morehouse is an avid golfer and former public radio chief financial officer. He rocks a WHRO pledge drive and loves gadgets for gadgets' sake.
Unaware of any heart issues, Tom was not alarmed when he was golfing one day and his Apple watch vibrated with an *atrial fibrillation* alert. He wrote it off as an anomaly. His heart was beating just fine so he thought nothing of it or the vibrations that persisted.
Then, he went to donate blood and the Red Cross turned him away citing an irregular heartbeat. "That's when I started to think maybe there's something going on," Tom says.
He went to his primary care physician who did an EKG. No Afib detected. He left her office ready to dig a little deeper, armed with a referral to a cardiologist.
At home, Tom shared the events with his neighbor, a retired physician who immediately urged him to see Erich Kiehl.
"Kiehl's your man."
Swayed by this endorsement, Tom went to Dr. Erich Kiehl, a Cardiac Electrophysiologist with Sentara Cardiology Specialists.
Upon that visit, he was given a second EKG and told 'we don't see anything.'
That was not the full picture.
There are things on an EKG that are not always detected. After one visit, Tom had complete faith in this doctor's judgment and knew he was in good hands.
"He's smart and personable. He worked on algorithms for a Smart Watch and told me about the false positives these watches are prone to throw out because they'd rather people err on the side of caution."
Diligent and thorough, Dr. Kiehl did not rely on the EKG. He proceeded with an echocardiogram which revealed severe stenosis, a life-threatening condition that required immediate attention.
"I remember them telling me it's serious and 'we have to get you to the plumber.'"
The 'plumber' he referred Tom to was Dr. Matthew Summers, Interventional Cardiologist at Sentara Cardiology Specialists. Dr. Summers confirmed severe aortic stenosis and stated the urgency of a valve replacement.
"We need to do this," he told Tom.
Tom had options.
He could do nothing. Doctors predicted he would live six months to two years without intervention.
He could panic.
Neither were viable.
In the midst of a major health scare, good surprises came in the form of comforting and exceptional patient care.
When Tom describes the level of personal care at Sentara in Norfolk and on the Peninsula, it sounds like he's reviewing a resort.
- Wonderful from start to finish.
- Great experience
Instead of feeling rattled by jarring news, Dr. Summers made him feel at ease. One way he accomplished that was simply telling him how many cases he's successfully performed. "I've been doing these [procedures] for eight years and we've had great success."
Dr. Summers is more than a talented heart doctor who gave Tom peace of mind, saved his life and got him back on the golf course in better shape than before. "He is so personable you want to go and grab a beer with him. This experience taught me what patient care can be. It doesn't have to be sterile and all business."
Access to exceptional patient care was another positive experience for Tom Morehouse.
He had immediate trust in Dr. Kiehl's judgment at Sentara Port Warwick, near Tom's home in Hampton. That led Tom to Dr. Summers and life-sustaining surgery at Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk. Today he receives excellent follow-up care close to home with Dr. Kiehl, who sees patients on the Peninsula and Williamsburg.
With 20/20 hindsight, Tom recalls how he felt "doing life" before the surgery.
"I would climb the hill, get winded and need to sit down when I got up top. But, I didn't think anything of it.
Three weeks after the surgery, I'm back on the course. Now, a few months later, I'm walking uphill with no problem at all."
Feeling like a new person didn't stop the recently repaired gadget guy from upgrading to an electric buggy.
By: Lisa Richmon