This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Promise magazine.
Beverly Smith and Dr. Peter Bittenbender
“Caring is what sets Summa apart,” said Beverly Smith, retired school principal and member of the Summa Health Cardiovascular Leadership Council. Her generous estate gift in support of cardiology research and education at Summa Health was inspired by the care she witnessed in 2017 as a participant in Summa’s physician-shadowing program.
“I had a heart murmur as a child,” she said. “After I retired, I started having trouble completing my workouts.”
That symptom eventually led to an aortic valve replacement at another hospital, which performed the procedure as an open-chest surgery, the conventional practice at the time. She vividly remembers how frightened she was about having the surgery and the difficult recovery, which took her nearly two years.
She found out later that Summa’s Dr. Peter Bittenbender had performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in Summit County at Summa Health shortly before she had had her open-heart procedure. Most patients who undergo the minimally invasive, catheter-based procedure return home within 24 hours and are fully recovered in about a week.
After meeting Dr. Bittendbender at a Summa Foundation event, she shadowed him and his colleague Dr. Justin Dunn for a full day that included observing two TAVR procedures.
With patients’ permission, Beverly accompanied Dr. Bittenbender when he talked to each patient and family before surgery. “It was heartwarming to see the way he interacted and the guidance he provided,” said Beverly. “To see a doctor with such a high level of expertise communicate with such caring and concern was just a delight.”
As Dr. Bittenbender performed the surgery, Dr. Dunn stood with Beverly, explaining every step of the procedure and the role of each person on the team.
“It was truly amazing. Everyone on the surgical team was so welcoming and so helpful. I have heard about the team approach many times, but it was impressive to see it firsthand,” she said. “TAVR significantly shortens the recovery period for patients. It was truly an eye opener to witness the time and preparation that was devoted to each patient.”
For more information about supporting cardiovascular care at Summa Health, contact Jessica Hudson at 330.375.4762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.