Message from the President

In Good Hands
by Loren B. Hamel, MD - President, Spectrum Health Lakeland | Feb 28, 2019    Share

For much of her childhood, LaKeena endured back pain, bone pain, and severe headaches. Her symptoms puzzled doctors for years, before she was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes serious problems with eyes, bones, joints, and the heart and blood vessels. Sadly, there is no cure yet.

As someone with Marfan syndrome, LaKeena lived with chronic pain, but in her 30s, she also began to feel extremely weak due to a leaky valve in her heart. Although she had been living in Wisconsin, LaKeena knew it was time to return to Benton Harbor to be closer to her family.

That decision led LaKeena to research cardiologists in our area. Although she was nervous about the prospect of more surgery and not very familiar with, or confident in, Lakeland at first, she spoke to Dr. Baghelai and instantly felt at ease.

She met him and physician assistant Troy Teagardin at a critical moment in her life.

“At that time, I honestly thought I was about to die,” said LaKeena. “So many doctors had said that my life expectancy was not good. But Dr. Baghelai and Troy reassured me that I could live a long life if I just took special care of my heart.”

LaKeena’s care team also took time to carefully explain everything about the procedure she needed and share websites, videos, and other resources, reassuring her that open-heart surgery would repair the valve and improve her overall energy and strength.

“I was terrified, but they gave me hope,” said LaKeena. “So I agreed to the surgery.”

For most open-heart surgeries, Dr. Baghelai would replace a valve, but for LaKeena, he needed to do something different. In addition to a leaky valve, LaKeena’s heart had an enlarging area which could rupture and result in death, so Dr. Baghelai replaced her aortic root, reimplanted the coronary arteries, and repaired her own valve. By the way, Spectrum Health and the University of Michigan are the only places in the state to perform this procedure successfully in 2017 and 2018.

As LaKeena recovered from open-heart surgery, she began to regain strength and energy so that she could return to her normal routine, including her work as a medical receptionist at Lakeland.

“Before the surgery, I didn’t even have the energy to hold my head up sometimes,” said LaKeena. “It felt like the blood wasn’t flowing properly. And even though I can’t be on my feet as much as when I was younger, I have the energy to go to my job every day now.”

To each and every one of you here at Lakeland, including Dr. Baghelai and team, thanks for all you do to ensure our patients are in good hands.

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If you would like to read more of Message from the President, click here

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