Tales from the Heart
Paul McLean, PhD
From classroom instructor to high school administrator to adjunct professor at Christopher Newport University, Paul McClean has valued teaching and learning all his life. But beginning in late December of 2015 this Denbigh resident encountered a different vocabulary and a whole new area of education, and it was all related to his heart.
"It was a memorable day. We had just bought a new car, my daughter and grandchildren along with my sister and her family had been visiting and the house was festive with Christmas decorations. Then it all changed in a moment. After everyone left and my wife and I were getting ready for bed, I had a severe heart attack caused by a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. She called 911 and when the EMTs arrived they had to resuscitate me. I was originally taken to another hospital in the area, but when my family and I found out I'd need open heart surgery we chose to have the procedure done at Riverside and I was transported there. It definitely proved to be the right decision."
"Cardiothoracic surgeon Steven Scott, M.D., performed a triple bypass which was the first step in what is now shaping up to be a full recovery. We were very pleased with every aspect of the care and it was especially comforting to get such clear and helpful information, first about my progress in the hospital, and then about the follow-up care I'm now receiving. As I look forward to getting back to activities with my family and a return to teaching, I feel strongly that Riverside more than lived up to its reputation as the Peninsula's top heart hospital."
Decades of work in the shipyards of Newport News and Portsmouth, some of it operating machinery and some of it in management, had mentally and physically prepared Luther "Sam" Simmons for just about anything. But what he wasn't ready for as he did lawn work that fall day at his Smithfield home, was the incredible pain he suddenly felt in his chest and abdomen.
The EMTs recognized the seriousness of the situation and decided to take me to Riverside. What I had was an aortic dissection, a fairly uncommon and life-threatening condition involving a tear in the major artery carrying blood out of my heart. And I had the worst type. As soon as the dissection was positively diagnosed, cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, Steven Scott, M.D. performed a complex procedure that repaired the damage. Along with his surgical skills, he and the entire care team were very responsive and thorough when it came to explaining everything that was going on to my family. All of the people I encountered at Riverside were especially encouraging and supportive, which I really needed to get through.
As it turns out, I also had a brain tumor that was diagnosed when I got to the hospital. So I had neurosurgery at Riverside not long after the heart surgery and I'm continuing radiation right now. In a sense, the problem with my heart is the reason why the brain tumor is being effectively treated, so I can find a silver lining even in that difficult situation. All in all, the road to recovery hasn't been smooth and straight, but I'm making progress now every day and it's a reminder that there's still more on this earth for me to do.
first-hand account has been minimally edited for clarity and to explain medical