Two open heart surgeries.
The same lifesaving Abington heart surgeon.
Whoever said life is full of coincidences was talking about Roman Radynsky and Donald Richardson. Roman, of Hatboro, and Don, of Willow Grove, are friends who were returning from a group bus trip to Atlantic City in late August 2009. Roman, 82, told his wife, Roxie, that he wasn't feeling well. He chewed an antacid to settle things a bit.
In the front of the bus, 84-year-old Don was taking the same antacid. His wife, Dolores, was worried. "Don just wasn't himself," she says.
Roxie tried to coax Roman to go to Abington Memorial Hospital, but "he just wanted to go home," she recalls. "He didn't have any common symptoms like chest pain."
"I just felt ‘uncomfortable,'" says Roman. "It was hard to explain." Soon Roman asked his wife to call their family doctor. By early morning on Tuesday, Aug. 26, the couple was in Abington's Emergency Department.
The Emergency team immediately recognized Roman's trouble, and called for cardiac reinforcements. Cardiologist Marc Cohen, M.D. performed an emergency cardiac catheterization.
"It's critical that we determine the exact location and cause of the patient's distress," explains Dr. Cohen. "Not everyone can articulate their symptoms. In this case, three arteries to Roman's heart were completely blocked."
Dr. Cohen conferred with Cardiothoracic Surgeon Mauricio Garrido, M.D. "We could see that Roman had already suffered two heart attacks in the two weeks prior to his coming to our Emergency Department," Dr. Garrido says.
Roxie will never forget the news. "Dr. Garrido said that if we hadn't come in, Roman was at risk for a potentially fatal heart attack."
While Roman was admitted to Abington's 5 Lenfest Unit to be monitored and prepped for open heart surgery, his friend Don was home struggling with chest pains. His wife Dolores recalls, "I was so afraid. Don had a heart attack many years ago. He agreed to go to Abington's Emergency Department, but insisted on driving us there."
The date was August 27. Don's story followed Roman's almost to the letter, with Dr. Cohen performing the same diagnostic tests. "Once I met Dr. Cohen and Dr. Garrido, I felt Don was in good hands," Dolores explains. "They were both so nice to our family, and so were the nurses. It makes you feel so much better when people care."
As Don was being admitted to 5 Lenfest, Dolores noticed the name "Radynsky" on another room. Inside that room, Roman Radynsky saw a familiar face.
Both men met in the corridor, echoing the same question: "What are YOU doing here??"
On August 31, Roman Radynsky underwent successful coronary artery bypass grafting by Dr. Garrido. On September 1, his friend Don followed him, as Dr. Garrido created two new connections to his heart that circumvented Don's blockages. Only one major aspect differed in their surgeries.
Don was "off pump." This means his heart continued to beat on its own during the procedure, while Roman's heart was placed on a heart-lung machine while the cardiothoracic specialist performed the bypasses.
Dr. Garrido explains, "At Abington Memorial Hospital, we take pride in working as a team, offering a full repertoire of heart services that meet the needs of the individual patient. Our goal in treating patients of any age is to save and improve the quality of their lives in the gentlest way possible.
"Because of our expertise, we commonly perform open heart surgeries on patients that are 80 and even 90, as well as those who are much younger," Dr. Garrido concludes.
The coronary arteries leading to the heart pump five liters of oxygen-rich blood per minute. No artery is wider than a coffee stir stick. It doesn't take much plaque to block one.
During the coronary bypass operation, Dr. Garrido takes arteries off the chest wall (called mammary arteries) and a vein from the leg to bring oxygen-rich blood to the parts of the heart that need them most. The heart immediately begins benefitting from the increased oxygen.
Dr. Garrido adds, "The strength of our program is that we make prudent decisions about each patient every step of the way. From the time a patient arrives at the hospital, through testing, diagnosis, and treatment like open heart surgery, it's a collaborative, well thought out process that ultimately leads to excellent results."
Back on 5 Lenfest after their respective surgeries, Roman and Don walked the halls together to gain strength. They talked about the old, old days, when yes, they attended the same elementary school. Three grades apart, they didn't know each other then. Or how their paths would cross again, and again.
Their road to recovery continues. But they haven't been back to the casinos yet. After all, how lucky can you get?
Both chose Abington Memorial Hospital. And that's no coincidence.