Andy Buchanan 2016-11-16 15:06:00
Cardiovascular Team Tackles Heart Failure with New Treatments, Technology Few things set Thomas Winklebleck’s heart aflutter more than navigating an open flame to create a culinary masterpiece. An Executive Chef who cooked for the Chicago Blackhawks and now heads up the kitchens at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Winklebleck admits he often puts his busy work life ahead of his health. That habit finally caught up with him earlier this year. DANGEROUS DECLINE Winklebleck, 51, has battled heart problems for years, including a leaky heart valve caused by a congenital abnormality that thickened his heart wall, restricting normal blood flow. In consultation with NorthShore-affiliated Internist Jack Morgan, MD, Winklebleck was managing his condition through medications, but one day at work in the kitchen Winklebleck noticed his shortness of breath had worsened. He felt particularly sluggish and light-headed. “I bent down to grab a pan and almost fell over,” he recalled. Winklebleck headed home to rest, but his condition further deteriorated as pain radiated down his arm and through his chest. Finally, at 3 a.m., Winklebleck went to the Emergency Department at NorthShore Skokie Hospital. “I reached the point where I was consoling myself with thoughts in my head like, ‘This is it. I’ve done some great things in my life.’” Fortunately for Winklebleck, his 11th-hour impulse to seek immediate medical attention was a lifesaving move. Through the efforts of experts at NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, the ailing chef underwent emergency surgery to replace the valve and shave the thickened heart wall. Postsurgery, he required an innovative life-support system that allowed his heart to rest and stabilize over the ensuing days so he could heal and recover. CRITICAL LIFE SUPPORT Cardiac Surgeon Hyde Russell, MD, performed surgery on Winklebleck that successfully repaired his damaged valve and reshaped his heart to improve blood flow. Winklebleck was placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) device to help ensure a complete recovery. “ECMO provides mechanical circulatory support, temporarily allowing the patient’s heart and lungs to rest and recover,” said NorthShore Cardiologist Robert Gordon, MD, who holds an academic title at the Pritzker School of Medicine. The technique provided Winklebleck with life-sustaining support that his own heart and lungs may have been unable to provide at the time. NorthShore is one of only a handful of area health systems offering patients ECMO technology. “Dr. Russell and the whole team at NorthShore saved my life,” said Winklebleck, who is now much more proactive about managing his health, including using NorthShoreConnect to set appointments and reminders and keep up with his prescriptions on the go. “I haven’t felt this well in 10 years.” Back at work in the kitchens of IIT, Winklebleck’s life is returning to normal. “We have some young intern chefs here working under me and I tell them, ‘You know, I’m a heart patient and I’m outworking you,’” he said. “I’m literally a walking miracle.” PIONEERING TREATMENTS Winklebleck’s experience is just one example of how NorthShore is building on its commitment to provide patients with leading-edge heart failure treatments. This includes the use of innovative devices—both temporary and permanent—to support heart function. Patient William “Russ” Winters benefited from another new therapy now available at the Cardiovascular Institute: a permanent, implanted heart pump. Winters, 70, had been dealing with heart issues for years, which prompted a valve replacement at NorthShore two decades ago. But over time, his heart failure had worsened to the point that he could barely walk—and he was running out of options. Winters’ longtime NorthShore Cardiologist, Caesar DeLeo, MD, referred him to Drs. Gordon and Russell. The duo recommended implantation of a HeartMate II, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), an ingenious pump for patients who have reached end-stage heart failure. Dr. Russell implanted the LVAD, which is attached to the heart’s left ventricle. The device is operated by an external controller and powered by a battery pack that is plugged in at night while the patient sleeps. “The pump is doing the work of the left ventricle, which is the workhorse of the heart,” explained Dr. Russell, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “It pumps blood out of the left ventricle and pushes it into the ascending aorta, where it’s circulated to the rest of the body.” SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE According to Dr. Russell, implantation of the LVAD is enormously complex. He emphasized that patients and their families must fully commit to maintaining the proper regimen to ensure that the device works properly. “I had a choice either to continue living or not,” said Winters, a retiree who lives in Park City, just outside of Waukegan. “I’m in good health, except for my heart. So I thought, ‘What the heck. Let’s give it a try and see what happens.’” The procedure proved life-changing. Winters said he had “absolutely no pain” after the operation. While his care team advised bed rest, three days postimplant he was standing up at the foot of his bed. “I wasn’t supposed to do that, but I was feeling so good I wanted to get moving.” He was on the move once home from the hospital, completing chores around his sister’s house—where he has been recuperating—and enjoying an occasional outing. “I went to the racetrack and ran up and down the stairs to place my bets,” he added. “It just blows me away that I feel so good.” Winters has also been enjoying quality time with his family, including two sons and four grandchildren. “The pump has been doing its job,” he added. “I’m tremendously grateful for the expertise at NorthShore, which has allowed me this second chance at life.” THOMAS’ STORY—IN HIS OWN WORDS Thomas Winklebleck candidly talks about his heart failure scare and the road to recovery with NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute. Read his blog on Healthy You, NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, at northshore.org/L15.
Published by Staywell/NorthShore University. View All Articles.
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