Patient Shares His Journey

david-cottrellFor David Cottrell, his story with heart disease began like this: “Last year, I went to bed with a ‘touch of flu.’ When I woke up, I was dying.”   

These words are from an open letter of appreciation to his cardiac team at the Pauley Heart Center, which he published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in January.

“Mr. Cottrell was a wonderful patient to take care of.  I am always impressed by the resilience and tenacity that patients demonstrate when facing such dire circumstances,” said Cardiac/Thoracic Surgeon Daniel Tang, MD.

Instead of the flu, Cottrell, who had previously enjoyed a lifetime of good health, was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, along with a bacterial staph infection that attacked his heart valve. He’d experienced multiple embolic strokes, and his body was going into multisystem organ failure.

He was transferred to VCU at the urging of a cardiac surgeon in New York. “From the moment I arrived at VCU Health and saw the team that had already been gathered, I never again had a moment of doubt or fear,” he says.

His surgical team was made up of Vigneshwar Kasirajan, MD, Daniel Tang, MD, Zachary Gertz, MD, Rajiv Malhotra, DO.

“You faced a medical nightmare, but what you said to me was, ‘Don’t worry. This is what we do every day,’” he recalls in the letter.

In the year that followed, his team grew as he returned to the hospital for a series of frightening setbacks—including three emergency open-heart surgeries. Denise Lynch, RN, coordinated the effort, working closely with Cottrell’s wife, Christy, who visited him every day.

“Mr. Cottrell was a wonderful patient to take care of.  I am always impressed by the resilience and tenacity that patients demonstrate when facing such dire circumstances,” said cardiac/thoracic surgeon Daniel Tang, MD. “Equally impressive was his determination to rehab and recover.”

According to Tang, “It was quite a surprise and very gratifying to see the open letter. It is certainly unusual and was very much appreciated by the staff involved in his care.”

With David now recovered, he and Christy are enjoying their second chance at life with home renovations and travel—and gratitude for VCU.

“When I arrived, I was your patient,” he writes. “Today, you are my family.”

To read Carissa Etters’ article on the couple’s amazing story and watch a video, please follow this link: http://news.vcu.edu/article/Health_care_from_the_heart_Three_new_valves_and_a_fresh_outlook

 

PHOTO ABOVE: GRATEFUL PATIENT DAVID COTTRELL AT HOME.