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Patient Stories

Below is a collection of powerful and inspirational stories shared by just some of the many Summa Health cardiovascular patients. Browse through these stories and consider sharing your own to help others press forward during their own health challenges. For additional patient stories, covering everything from cancer to trauma and weight loss, visit

As you’ll see, with every person, every day, Summa provides personal, life-changing care. Call today for an appointment.


Gary Vestal

Cardiology Patient

From a visit to the emergency department to surgery through cardiac rehabilitation at Summa Health, Gary is grateful for the life-saving care he received.


It was Christmas Eve. I woke up like any normal day. I felt this real sharp pain in the middle of my chest, like somebody had their fist there, so my wife took me to emergency at Summa Hospital. Found out that I had a tear in my aorta and the doctor said I had to have surgery immediately. Dr. Mayor and his team repaired the tear in my aorta and they also repaired a valve. This surgery was so serious that I was in the ICU for 20 days. Dr. Mayor and his whole cardiology team basically saved my life and so by the grace of God and the doctors I'm here today. I wanna give a shout out to the Cardiac Rehabilitation team. They watch you closely. They take good care of you and like I say, it brings tears to my eyes. Thanks to Summa Health, I'm a real miracle man.

Mary Davis

Cardiology Patient

Mary was diagnosed with heart failure and looks forward to enjoying her life after receiving a Barostim device implant at Summa Health. 


Mary: I had been diagnosed with heart failure after two heart attacks. I was told bypass was not going to work for me. I did my own research to figure out how I could stay alive, and I found the Barostim therapy.

I was referred to Summa Health, and Dr. Kenneth Varian, the heart failure specialist. He said I would be a good candidate for the Barostim device, and Dr. McShannic would perform the surgery. The sensor device implanted in my chest then sends signals through wires connected to my carotid artery, up to my brain, to stimulate heart function, kidney function, and more.

I was the first patient at Summa Health to get the Barostim device, and I am absolutely delighted with it. I am feeling great and looking forward to living more.


Chuck Seeley

Cardiology Patient

From diagnosis through treatment to cardiac rehab, Chuck is grateful for the cardiology care he received at Summa Health.


Chuck: Two years ago, I was in a very bad, very dark place. I couldn't breathe. I had no energy, I couldn't sleep. And my primary care doctor at Summa referred me to Loretta Isada, a cardiologist at Summa who quickly diagnosed some heart issues.

The cardio team came to my rescue. I had plumbers, electricians, carpenters, doctors Loretta Isada, Justin Dunn, Kenneth Varian. They determined that I needed mitral valve clips. After that, another rockstar, Dr. Michael Pelini installed a pacemaker defibrillator. Very quickly after that, I went into rehab at Summa Cardio Rehab.

So it was a one long, great experience that helped get me back to where I wanted to be, where I needed to be and I'm very grateful for that. And they gave me my life back. And 'cause of that, my story goes on and believe me, I'm speaking from my heart.


Clarencia Reese

Cardiology Patient

After having an LVAD implanted, Clarencia is back to doing what she loves – spending time with her grandchildren.


Clarencia: Following chemotherapy, I noticed that I would be out of breath just with any exertion. I knew that I needed to see a cardiologist, and I found Dr. Varian at Summa Health. He diagnosed me with severe heart failure. I became a candidate for an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device.

Dr. Chung led the team of surgeons who implanted the device. The LVAD device is attached to my heart. And this is the external device, which I have to carry with me at all times.

I feel like Summa was the answer to my prayers. Six months ago, I think that I questioned whether or not I was actually gonna live. And here we are six months later, and I'm back to doing things almost like normal, and I'm actually taking my grandchildren to the zoo today.


Jeffery Lamb

Cardiology Patient

Simple chest pain led to TAVR and WATCHMAN procedures


Jeffery: I thought I was a pretty healthy guy until I worked in the yard and I felt some chest pain. I went to Summa and they evaluated that I needed a stent, and Dr. Pelini suggested the WATCHMAN™, which kept me off the blood thinners.

They looked at the rest of the heart and my valve was 30% smaller than it should have been. I met Dr. Dunn, and he said that I would be a good candidate for the TAVR procedure. I was just amazed that they didn't have to do open heart surgery to replace the valve. The TAVR and the WATCHMAN™ was like miracles to me.

I'm alive today 'cause Summa recognized the problems with my heart. I'm gonna come out of retirement and go back to work next summer.


Renick Blosser

Cardiology Patient

Experienced chest pains and 100% blockage at just 44 years old


Renick: I'm 44 years old. It's a day like any other, I'm walking my dogs, I come back in and I start having chest pains. The next thing I know I'm laying on the ground, gripping my chest and screaming for my 12-year old daughter to call 911.

The EMS takes me to Summa Akron Campus, they whisk me to the cath lab, Dr. Ayafor and her team are there. They quickly confirm that it is a 100% blockage on my right descending coronary artery, and that I'm going to need two stents put in to quickly save my life. I couldn't believe how well coordinated everything was, and it really made me feel like I was in the best hands possible.

So I get out of the hospital, I start doing cardiac rehab, I've dropped 35 pounds. This lesson really taught me that I need to take better care of myself so that I can take care of my family. My family to me means everything


Glenn Thompson

Cardiology Patient

Feeling 90 years young after heart stent procedure


Glenn: I went to my family doctor and he advised me to go to see a heart doctor. The doctor did a catheterization on me and they found a blockage in the arteries. And then I met Dr. Rea at Summa, and he went in two of my arteries and put three different stents in to open 'em up. It should prolong my life.

I'll be 91 years old soon, and I can hardly wait to get back out and do things I always done. Even now, I take Winston out for walks twice a day.

When I think about Dr. Rea, he's a very terrific fellow, and I can't thank him enough. I recommend Dr. Rea to anybody with heart problems, and that's the way I feel about it.


Don Wuchter

Cardiology Patient

Living with heart failure at 46 years old


Don: I hadn't seen the doctor in years. And I had a persistent cough I just couldn't get rid of. I couldn't walk from point A to point B without stopping to catch my breath. I finally got the courage to go to get checked out at Summa. Imagine my shock when Dr. Varian told me I have congestive heart failure at 46 years old, with 20% heart functionality I thought I'd done myself in. Dr. Varian, then transitioned to telling me the lifestyle changes I would have to make to live a healthy life.

I've lost 130 pounds. I'm down to four medications for maintenance, and I feel fantastic. Greatest thing of all, I get to be there for my family. I get to see my daughter graduate from high school, my son play football, and my wife's smile.

Dr. Varian and his team worked a miracle to put my life back together. My message to anyone who's neglected their health like I have, would be go see your doctor, before it's too late.


Gerry Faust

TAVR procedure was a win!


Gerry: I saw Dr. Reede at church one morning. He said it's about time we check your heart and see how things are going. So I went to Summa, and I had a blockage, and my aortic valve needed to be replaced, and Dr. Dunn did a TAVR procedure on me. I was back to normal the next day. And I tell you, the place is super, they did a super job of taking care of me, getting me out there the next day back to normal, and the people there treated me first class. I'm sure the good Lord had a lot to do with that too.

You know I was a football coach for five years at Notre Dame. I was at Akron U for nine years. I tell coaches wins on the field keep your job, but the wins of the hearts of the young people you're coaching are the real wins in life, and the heart was a real win. The TAVR procedure was a win for me, and I love wins. Yeah, I love wins.


Karlise Brown

Sings Dr. Isada's praises for healing her heart


Karlise: I'm a professional singer, but high blood pressure, kidney disease, anemia, these problems were keeping me from what I love to do. Thank goodness I found Dr. Isada at Summa Health.

Dr Isada is a real investigator. She left no stone unturned in finding out what the problem was. Thanks to her care, I went from eight different blood pressure medications down to just three. And now with my blood pressure under control, I can sing anywhere, anytime.

My singing is my ministry. That is how I reach out and give back. Now that Dr. Isada helped heal my heart, I can continue to touch other hearts through my singing.

My stage name is "Star," and now that my health is under control, I feel like a star, thanks to Dr. Isada.


George Sukara

Newlywed enjoys a renewed life after stenting procedure


George: I went running on the Brecksville Reservation Towpath, and on my return leg, I dropped dead on the trail. EMS transported me to Summa Health System Akron. Dr. Dunn and his team discovered that I had a 98% blockage in my widowmaker, and put a stent in to open it up.

Eventhough my heart was beating again, the rest of my body was unresponsive. They decided to put me into an induced coma to make sure that I didn't end up with brain damage. A week after that, I'm home, normal life.

I'm a newlywed, and one of our goals, my new bride and I is to have our honeymoon in Paris which was put off because of the incident, and now we're going to go, thanks to Dr. Dunn and his team.


Kelly Smith

Grateful for life-saving care during a heart attack


Kelly: I'd been having heartburn for two weeks, and I woke up one Sunday, and it was really bad, and it wouldn't go away. And I called my friend to take me to the Summa Green Emergency Room. I remember pulling into the parking lot. Apparently that's when I had a heart attack was in my friend's car. From there they rushed me to Summa Akron where I met Dr. Silver and his team. My widowmaker was 100% blocked, and they put a stent in to free the blockage.

I owe that team my life. They truly are angels. They saved my life. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them.

I have to live for my son and for my grandson, they complete my life. And Dr. Silver gave me that back.

My message for heart health for women would be if something is going on and it doesn't feel right, please get it checked out. It could just save your life.


Tony and Sandy Solaro

Heart patient experiences a miracle


Tony: Our care experience began when Sandy had a cardiac arrest. We flew by helicopter to Akron City.

Sandy: I was hospitalized four months, and the care was very good.

Tony: To see people so dedicated when it was so dire. Lots of hugs, from physicians as well. When a physician comes in and they refer to you by name, or a nurse comes in and holds your hand when she's giving you a medication. You feel as though you're the only patient they take care of. People have said that we are the recipients of a miracle. The miracle is the type of people that could take care of someone critically ill like this, and make sure that she could get well.

Sandy: My gratitude is that I walked away alive.

Tony: That's the miracle.

Sandy: Yes, they did save my life.


Crystal Rosenberger

New mom shares from the heart


Crystal: I had just given birth to my son at Summa, and two weeks later I was back at Summa because I had just collapsed with a heart attack. I thought well this is it, you know. Like I'm not making it out of this one.

I trusted that they would give me the care that I needed. And Dr. Dunn explained everything, and not just to me. He explained everything to my husband. It was almost like he was their patient too.

All of the nurses called me "rock star." Everybody was like cheering me on as I was going for my walk around the floor. The caregivers really are the true rock stars, aren't they?

The last visit with Dr. Espinal was kind of bittersweet because he's fantastic. As much as I'm glad that I don't have to see him, I'm sad that I don't get to see him. How do you repay someone, who's given you the ability to come home to your family everyday?


Tom Davis

A mended heart keeps him on pace


Tom: I have experienced and suffered through having atrial fibrillation for more than thirty years. Dr. Taigen studied it and said it's about time we put a pacemaker in.

The coordination between Dr. Taigen's staff, the whole cardiology group, and the hospital is incredible. You totally feel like I'm at the right hospital. The nursing staff, their concern for your well-being, is paramount to them. It wasn't just my effervescent personality. They treat everybody like that.

There's indeed stress in going to the hospital, but once you get there after a day or two you really don't want to leave. And I have more energy. I'm more alert. I have Dr. Taigen to thank for that.

The best part of having a pacemaker is I'm under strict orders from Dr. Taigen not to cut the lawn anymore. I can certainly deal with these restrictions. There's no question about it. I have to stop laughing.


Roman Bryant

Energized after healing a hole in his heart


Roman: I'm 26 years old. I do push ups everyday. I workout everyday. I started to get a shortness or breath, chest pains. I feel like my heart is being squeezed as tight as possible. I went in to get a checkup and they noticed there was a hole in it. I was born with a tiny hole in my heart that as I grew it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. This is serious. I could have just dropped dead.

Dr. Dunn told me if I wouldn't have caught it, I could be going any minute now, basically what he was telling me so. It made me more comfortable with going through what I was going through. I just want to thank him somehow. Dr. Dunn, I like him.

Summa I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, I'll say they was a 20. It was the best care. You see, I just want to think about it, it puts a smile on my face. I feel special. I feel like I own the hospital. I feel like I was a superstar. You see that was my first time being through anything like that first off.

Now that they fixed it, I have a lot more energy. And maybe I wouldn't have been here today.


Dennis and Sharon Ebie

Feeling at ease after minimally invasive TAVR procedure


Dennis: I'm a third generation farmer, and I started having shortness of breath, so I went to Summa to be checked out. I turns out I had a leaking heart valve, and they suggested a TAVR procedure to fix it.

Sharon: Dr. Dunn just helped explain the procedure. We felt at ease with him. Dennis had the surgery done about noon time. A couple hours later, he was done, he was laughing and smiling. Right after the procedure, it was like instant, he said he could breathe better.

Dennis: I tried to talk to Dr. Dunn into releasing me the same day, but he made me stay over the night. Compared to open heart surgery, this procedure was like a miracle.

Sharon: The TAVR procedure actually helped Dennis get back to work within a week's time.

Dennis: My heart is back to pumping better than ever.

Sharon: Dennis' mom lived to be 105, so I'm expecting Dennis to be around a lot longer thanks to all the doctors at Summa hospital.


Dale Gramley

Healed his heart in rehab


Dale: Not in a million years did I think something like this would happen to me. I had laid down to go to bed, and I could not breathe. I thought I was going to die. I was eventually taken to Summa Akron, and through Dr. Smith and his team, he was able to shock my heart back into normal rhythm, and then eventually I went to cardio rehab, and they basically saved my life also.

The therapists there, Patty, Kathy, Kirsten, and Joy, motivated me so much. They are the reason why I'm as healthy as I am now.

During cardio rehab, my heart function went from nineteen percent all the way to fifty-five percent, which is absolutely normal.

Through the efforts of Summa Akron and the cardio rehab team, it's oh my gosh, just a completely different lifestyle. I'm glad to be around for my wife during our retirement years. I bought myself a motorcycle for retirement, and I'm finally able to ride it again. Plus I can actually carry the laundry basket up from the basement for my wife.


Thomas Study

Back to 100% after TAVR procedure


Tom: I was having trouble breathing and could barely walk. I went to Summa for heart catheterization. The heart valve was not working right, and there was another artery that was one hundred percent blocked.

Dr. Bittenbender and Dunn said that instead of open-heart surgery, I was a candidate for this TAVR valve procedure. Soon as they put that heart valve in, my heart function improved dramatically right there on the operating table.

I think even the nurses were amazing as I was up walking around. You couldn't believe it. Dr. Dunn looks so young I had to ask him if he was a doctor or not. That whole ICU was just fantastic.

The TAVR procedure is a miracle. Right in our backyard here, just you can't beat it. Travel anywhere in the country you won't get better care.

Within a couple of weeks I was back to one hundred percent. In fact efficient, back to working on cars, working on houses, doing what ever I want. It's a miracle.


Charles Keener

Feeling 30 years younger after heart and vascular surgeries


Chuck: I was having so much pain in my legs I could not mow my lawn. Dr. Dunn at Summa hospital informed me that I needed to have surgery to improve the circulation in my legs. Dr. Dunn was so good I asked for some of his calling cards so I could pass them out.

After vascular surgery I had to have open heart surgery to have a valve replaced. Dr. Dunn and Dr. Baranek are two of the best doctors in the doctor business. And to have my health restored back to where I was say thirty years ago is really great.

I have a '57 Chevy, bright yellow, and I'm helping to put a Car-Cruise on this summer. I'm back to walking two miles a day, mowing my own lawn, and no one mows the lawn like I can.


Jim Riter

A new lifestyle & a new perspective after receiving cardiac care


Jim: I was the poster child for what not to do. I smoked, I didn't eat right, and I didn't exercise. I started getting chest pains, numbness, blurred vision. And out of the blue, I experienced a heart attack. And I was taken by ambulance to Summa Health. Within minutes they took me to the cath lab and installed three stents.

My cardiologist definitely saved my life that day, and I'm so grateful for the entire team. Dr. Bittenbender has been great in keeping me on a heart-healthy lifestyle, and I also look at him as a great friend.

Thanks to the cardiovascular rehab program at Summa Health, I quit smoking, I started a good diet, and I even built a gym in my basement. Today life is great. I'm spending a lot more time with my family, and I have a lot to live for.

My advice to other men would be to recognize signs of a heart attack and get out there and exercise every day. It's not going to hurt you.


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