They Could Have Danced All Night

To Your Health: Cardiology Blog

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Eight weeks to the day after his quintuple cardiac bypass surgery at The Valley Hospital, Steven Weissman fulfilled a promise to his daughter, Marisa: to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.

The Weissman Family

But as Steven noted, “We might never have had that important moment if it wasn’t for his phenomenal doctors, nurses and staff at Valley.”

Reliable Care during Uncertain Circumstances

Steven, 70, owner of the Shoestring Book Distribution Company in Wanaque, recalls the events that led up to his surgery by Valley’s Director of Cardiac Surgery, Alex Zapolanski, M.D., in May 2015.

“I was getting ready for bed on April 28, when I began to experience radiating chest pains that went into my shoulder and up to my jaw. I took an aspirin and asked Rona to call 9-1-1. When the paramedics arrived, I asked them to take me to Valley. I had had spinal surgery there just two months before in February, and my cardiologist, Dr. Howard Goldschmidt, practiced there. I had full confidence in my Valley doctors.”

Stabilized and admitted to the cardiac intensive care unit, Steven underwent a series of diagnostic tests. Fortunately, his heart did not sustain extensive damage. However, with five blockages in his coronary arteries, surgery was the necessary treatment.

Supporting the Support System

“To hear your father needs heart surgery is very traumatic,” says Marisa, a third-grade teacher in Mendham. “But Dr. Zapolanski told us very calmly that this is what Dad needed and that everyone at Valley would take wonderful care of him.”

Valley’s patient and family centered care approach focuses on involving patients’ loved ones in every aspect of their care. From the beginning to end of Steven’s hospitalization, the Weissmans say that Valley staff and volunteers supported them. They especially wanted to point to the extra-special attention given to the entire family by Steven’s nurses and Valley’s Assistant Vice President of Cardiac Services, Stacy M. Mack.

“Stacy found me in a waiting room when Steven was first brought in, and she told us she would coordinate his care each step of the way,” says Rona, a retired West Milford High School culinary arts educator. “I’m an optimist, so I knew in my heart that Steven would be fine; he’s a tough guy, but I was scared.”

“Stacy’s devotion to Valley’s patients and their families is evident in how she went above and beyond to help my family and assist my father in enrolling in cardiac rehabilitation so he would be healthy in time for the wedding,” adds Marisa.

Buoyed by a visit the day after surgery from Marisa and Todd, who had come directly from her bridal gown fitting and a wedding cake tasting, Steven insisted on seeing photos of his daughter trying on her wedding attire. He even enjoyed a little bite of the cake sample.

“The color was back in his face, and he was so excited,” remembers Marisa. “Dad came home four days after surgery. Out of this experience came a positive outcome, thanks to The Valley Hospital. My wedding guests were stunned by how well he looked.”

Care for a Lifetime

Steven and Rona WeissmanSuperior care and high-quality outcomes are just two of the hallmarks of Valley’s cardiac program that led Cleveland Clinic — the No. 1 heart hospital in the country — to choose Valley as its regional cardiovascular affiliate.

“Treating patients with cardiovascular disease is complex,” says Joseph Cacchione, M.D., Cardiologist and Chairman, Strategic Operations, at Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute. “Valley Health System’s cardiac program has a nationally recognized reputation, and we are proud to include them as a member of our Cardiovascular Specialty Network.”

As a diabetic, Steven always watched his diet, but he is now particularly attentive to eating healthfully. He continues his cardiac rehab exercises at home and will be monitored by Dr. Goldschmidt for the rest of his life.