CHEVERLY – The pavilion at the University of Maryland Prince George’s County Hospital Center (PGHC) was full of “thank you's” the evening of April 25.
“Thank you for saving my life,” one patient said to Jamie Brown, director of cardiac surgery at PGHC and associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. That sentiment was repeated countless times during the reception of patients and staff to celebrate the success of the rebuilt cardiac surgery program at the hospital.
Through a partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Medical System, the hospital relaunched their cardiac surgery program in 2014. Several weeks ago, the hospital passed the mark of performing more than 300 procedures.
This cardiac surgery has a three-star rating – the highest available – from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Only 10 percent of hospitals in the nation share this ranking.
As Brown said, the patients are “living evidence” of the program’s success. By the day of the reception, the cardiac team had performed 325 surgeries.
“We completely restructured the program. We’ve been lucky enough to hire a really fantastic team,” Brown said. “It was really starting from scratch, and that was all equipment, both inexpensive and very expensive equipment, all new personnel that all had a minimum of five years and up to 25 years of cardiac surgery experience. There was no compromise made to make sure that we had excellence at every turn that a patient interfaces with.”
Doing so allowed residents to access the healthcare they needed closer to home.
“We’ve been able to provide this care to patients and families who previously would’ve traveled outside of Prince George’s County for this care,” said Guerda Dominique, a physician assistant at the hospital.
Former patient Clifford Bedore said it was the “luck of the draw” that he came to this hospital, where he received open-heart surgery for severely clogged arteries.
“I was very lucky,” Bedore said. “And people say, ‘well, where did you have your surgery?’ and I say ‘at Prince George’s Hospital,’ and they say, ‘are you kidding me?’ And then I have to tell them the whole story about the top 10 percent ranking.”
Bedore is so grateful for the care he received that he regularly visits the hospital on the anniversary of his surgery to thank the staff for their life-saving care.
Throughout the reception, several other patients also shared their individual experiences with heart surgery at the hospital. Although their stories differed in certain aspects, from how they discovered their heart condition to their recovery time, one feature remained consistent: the attention and care they received from the doctors.
“That’s what stellar care is all about,” said Stacy Ashton, a former patient. “It’s beyond the actual surgery. It’s the relationships that you build with the people that really care about you. I built a relationship with Dr. Brown’s cardiac team.”
When Ashton returned to her job as a principal following her recovery, Dominique arranged with her a day to visit at the school. Once that day arrived, Ashton was greeted by not only Dominique – but also Brown and another member of the cardiac team.
“What cardiac surgeon do you know that makes house calls? I was speechless,” she said.
“Thank you to all the people who provided me with outstanding medical care,” Ashton said. “I would not be here today if it were not for these folks. And, I am just so grateful and so thankful.”
Dominique noted the cardiac team’s success is also due to their collaboration with other medical staff.
“We have a team of people, anesthesiologists, nurses, physicians’ assistants, the (operating room), the (intensive care unit), the (catheterization laboratory), respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, case management, cardiac rehab, nursing assistants and many others who all work together, and I thank them all for their care to you,” she said. “It is an amazing team that saves lives.”
Brown said it was “fantastic” to see these patients he had operated on.
“I think it’s one of the most rewarding things when doing what we do,” Brown said. “It’s of course challenging and rewarding immediately, but maybe the most rewarding thing is to see a really happy patient well on their way to full recovery weeks after surgery, and it’s certainly a special surprise to see them a couple weeks later with big smiles on their faces.”