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Personal Connections, All Part of a Cardiac Journey

Sometimes it’s the personal connection that can make a real difference in how you feel about a hospital. For 86-year old Kenneth Thomas of Waretown that special connection was with Deborah Heart and Lung Center’s Structural Heart Disease Program Coordinator Jennifer Joiner, MSN, APN.

“I came from a coal mining family,” he recalled. “When I started talking to Jen and found out her husband’s family was from the same area in Pennsylvania, I felt right at home.”

A retired architect, Ken has had a multi-step cardiac journey with Deborah.

“I found out I had PAD (peripheral arterial disease, or blockages in the legs) about five years ago. I couldn’t walk or anything, but no one could help me, so I went to find myself a new cardiologist.”

Conveniently there was a Deborah Specialty Physicians (DSP) office nearby in Manahawkin, and after an initial evaluation, within a few weeks Ken was at Deborah getting stents placed in his legs. “Finally I had some relief.” A subsequent irregular heart beat necessitated a pacemaker.

“After that I was fine.” Then a year-and-a-half ago Ken was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Ken Thomas and Richard Kovach, MD

“Fortunately my cardiologist Dr. Ghaly (Alan Ghaly, DO) is a wonderful man. He sent me to the Hospital where I met Dr. Kovach (Richard Kovach, MD). Because of my irregular heart beat I needed another procedure. Dr. Kovach told me it was either open-heart surgery or a ‘clip’.”

The ‘clip’ was MitraClip®, a minimally-invasive procedure for mitral valve repair. Done through a catheter it restores normal blood flow to a heart, without the complications and longer recovery time associated with surgery.

“Dr. Kovach was so pleased when I was out of recovery,” Ken said. “The nurses were tremendous the entire time. I now feel terrific.”

Ken is no stranger to challenges, being widowed at 44 with 3 young children. Luck was with him when he met Dottie — also a widow — and they have been happily married for 37 years with 7 children, 15 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren between them.

“I’m excited to get back to my family, and to my woodworking,” he added. “I’m usually busy on the craft shows selling my wood creations.”

“I have had a long relationship with Deborah,” he said “and everyone has been amazing. I am thankful to everyone at the hospital.”

Dr. Kovach echoed the sentiments. “I am so happy that Ken is doing well. Even though he is a ‘young’ 86 year old, it was so much safer for him to have the minimally-invasive MitraClip procedure. Anytime you can avoid an open-heart surgery for higher-risk patients, it is great to have an alternative. Our structural heart team is expert at these complex procedures, and when we have great outcomes like with Ken, it really makes our day.”