Couple stays in tune with physicians and each other
When John Woodrow met his future wife, Jane, on a blind date in 1961, he had his guitar in tow. She found it odd that he brought a musical instrument along on a first date, but she liked his playing. “I was surprised he actually was good at it,” she says.
They married the following year, and, as more years went by, string instruments would assume greater significance in their lives, helping to provide the means to travel the world and give to organizations they care about, including Cleveland Clinic.
When he met his future wife, Mr. Woodrow, a longtime resident of Athens, Ohio, was a music director and counselor at a summer camp. She was working toward a graduate degree in clinical psychology at Ohio University (OU) in Athens.
Mr. Woodrow enjoyed music but didn’t perform for a living. He had his sights set on either a financial career or teaching. He eventually received a degree in elementary education at the University of Rio Grande in nearby Rio Grande, Ohio. Ten years after they were married, the Woodrows moved to Florida, where he taught and she did a year-long internship for her PhD.
“Just about the time Jane finished her internship, I was offered a summer job by friends who started a small business in Athens,” Mr. Woodrow says. “I spent the next 35 years there.”
That business was Stewart MacDonald Guitar Shop Supply, founded in 1968 by C.E. Stewart and Bill MacDonald, devotees of the five-string banjo. “Together they started this little company selling parts for banjos,” says Mr. Woodrow, who accepted a permanent job offer on the condition that his friends let him buy into the company.
Today, Stewart MacDonald Manufacturing Co. is a successful business with 50 employees. They sell parts, kits and information on how to repair and build string instruments all over the world.
But back in 1972, when the Woodrows returned from Florida, the company offices, such as they were, sat on farmland on the outskirts of Athens. “My desk was an old door on two hobby horses in a former chicken coop,” Mr. Woodrow says. The chicken coop still stands and is the site of some of the company’s manufacturing, but the main offices have long since moved to better-appointed quarters in town.
Mr. Woodrow has retired as CFO of the business but still drops in on occasion. Dr. Woodrow has scaled back her private psychology practice to two days a week. Besides traveling, the couple enjoys singing in the First Presbyterian Church of Athens choir.
Solutions at Last
The Woodrows’ relationship with Cleveland Clinic began in the late 1980s, but Mr. Woodrow's health problems started much earlier, when he was 19 and living in New York City. “I came down with double pneumonia and got really, really sick,” he says. The pneumonia damaged his lungs and caused bronchiectasis, a persistent abnormal dilation of the bronchi, and may have affected his heart as well.
Decades later, in 1988, Mr. Woodrow signed up for an exercise program at OU but underwent a physical before he began. The results of his stress test came back showing an abnormality in his heart, so the doctors at OU sent him for a heart catheterization in Columbus, Ohio. There, he was diagnosed with constrictive pericarditis, a condition in which the outer lining of the heart or pericardium becomes calcified and constricts the filling of the heart. The Columbus doctors wanted to operate right away, but, because he had no symptoms, the Woodrows sought a second opinion at Cleveland Clinic.
The cardiology team at Cleveland Clinic ran elaborate tests and determined that immediate surgery was not warranted but that Mr. Woodrow’s heart required careful monitoring. For a decade and a half, he returned to Cleveland Clinic every six months for a checkup. Finally, when he was 67, his physician, Allan Klein, MD, Director of Imaging Research, told him that given his age and the degree of calcification and progression of his heart problem, it was time for surgery.
Bruce Lytle, MD, who holds the Delos M. Cosgrove, MD, Chair for Heart Disease Research,
performed the operation, removing the calcification and the pericardial sac that contained Mr. Woodrow’s heart and was restricting its function.
Mr. Woodrow spent 10 days in recovery. His wife appreciated that there was a class every day for families of cardiac patients to learn about nutrition and other relevant topics. She also liked being able to update family and friends on her husband’s condition via a Cleveland Clinic website with security code access. “We just gave this code to everybody we thought of who would want to know about John’s progress,” she says. “It was a positive experience.”
It was so positive that it inspired the Woodrows to support the establishment of the Center for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pericardial Diseases within the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. The center, run by Dr. Klein, provides a multispecialty collaborative approach to pericardial disease, which allows for a focused and expert diagnosis and treatment plan.
The Woodrows, who enjoy the arts, also support Cleveland Clinic’s Arts & Medicine Institute.
In the four years since the surgery, they have gone on several trips, including a two-week National Geographic Expedition to Iceland and surrounding islands this past May and June. Mr. Woodrow didn’t take any strenuous walks on the trip because he becomes short of breath easily, but that’s due more to the condition of his lungs than his heart, he says.
“John has had this lung problem for a long time. Doctors would evaluate it and say there was nothing they could do about it. The focus was always on his heart,” says Dr. Woodrow. Still, Dr. Klein thought something could be done for Mr. Woodrow’s lungs. Dr. Klein, who is on Staff in the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, joined forces with Muzaffar Ahmad, MD, on Staff in the Department of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine within the Respiratory Institute, to figure out the medicine that would be most beneficial for Mr. Woodrow.
“I really appreciate that collaboration,” Dr. Woodrow says. “They worked it out so John’s lung problem could actually be treated and helped. He won’t die of it. We just manage it.”
To make a gift supporting the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, the Respiratory Institute, the Arts & Medicine Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure online giving site, or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.