According to U.S. News & World Report, Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute is ranked number one in the United States for cardiology and heart surgery, making it an exceptionally attractive option for patients across the world seeking treatment for serious heart conditions. Such was the case for Monte Riley, 51. Monte and his wife Sandi, residents of Oklahoma, say they decided to explore their options at Cleveland Clinic after Monte’s heart murmur was no longer asymptomatic.
Originally, Monte’s doctor detected a heart murmur four years earlier at his yearly physical exam. "I didn’t have any symptoms at all that I was aware of," says Monte. "But I was having a routine check-up when my doctor said, ‘You have to see a cardiologist right away.’ I ended up seeing a local cardiologist who did an echocardiogram and told me I needed a new mitral valve and aortic valve immediately." Monte didn’t feel comfortable undergoing such an invasive treatment without learning more, so he and Sandi decided to seek some additional opinions.
Luckily, Sandi was friends with a nurse practitioner who worked for another amazing cardiologist. Monte and Sandi scheduled an appointment with him, and based on his recommendations, were able to postpone surgery for about four years by "watchful waiting". Monte started taking heart medications and blood thinner. He also received an echocardiogram every six months to ensure his heart was functioning properly. When Monte began experiencing symptoms, their doctor let them know it was time to act.
"Because no one in Oklahoma had experience with the extensive combination surgery Monte required, which included not only his heart valve repairs but also included repairing his pectus excavatum, we started looking around the country at our options," says Sandi. "I worked in the healthcare industry for a number of years and knew Cleveland Clinic was highly renowned. After doing some research, I came across the MyConsult website and told Monte, ‘I think we can actually get you a consult without having to fly all the way to Cleveland.’ We knew any one of the doctors there would be brilliant, so it seemed like a really great option."
Cleveland Clinic’s MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program is a sophisticated, Web-based extension of Cleveland Clinic’s 90-plus-year role as one of America’s most respected referral institutions. The secure, online program provides medical second opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,200 life-threatening and life-changing diagnoses.
So Monte and Sandi began collecting all of the medical information needed for Monte’s second opinion consultation. "I must have called the nurses at the MyConsult office a billion times with questions," says Sandi. "It was a really stressful time in our lives. I’m sure they have thousands of patients each year from all over the world, yet they always made me feel as if we were the only patients. They were so prompt and helpful, I felt like we had our own personal care team throughout the process."
Once Monte and Sandi had gathered all of the necessary information, they mailed it to Cleveland Clinic where it was triaged by the MyConsult nursing team and forwarded to Stephanie Mick, MD, a cardiovascular surgeon in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. About two weeks later, Monte and Sandi received Dr. Mick’s MyConsult report.
"I thought it was great," says Monte. "I felt like her opinion was very comprehensive. When we sent our follow-up questions, she responded right away and answered as if we were sitting right there in her office. She knew exactly what needed to be done and who needed to be involved for my surgery, should I decide to go to Cleveland Clinic. We sought opinions from a few other healthcare systems, and I felt like many were trying to give us the answers we wanted to hear. However, Dr. Mick seemed to be telling us what would truly be best for me personally. Based on our experience with MyConsult, we felt confident that Cleveland Clinic was where we should go for my surgery."
So Monte and Sandi flew to Cleveland where Monte underwent aortic and mitral valve replacements, tricuspid valve repair, and a rebuild of his chest wall to repair his pectus excavatum by Dr. Mick and Daniel Raymond, MD, also a thoracic surgeon in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. "I was extremely overwhelmed with emotion and started crying on the plane as soon as we arrived in Cleveland and saw Cleveland Clinic from the airplane window. It was such a sense of relief," says Sandi. "I said to Monte, ‘Finally, the people who can fix you. You are going to be okay now!’"
Monte and Sandi say their experience at Cleveland Clinic far surpassed their expectations. "Monte’s surgeons have performed these procedures hundreds of times, so we knew we were in good hands," says Sandi. "Once his surgery was complete, his nurses were just amazing. We spent about two weeks at Cleveland Clinic while Monte recovered and they did everything they could to keep him stable and out of pain. I don’t know what we would have done without them."
In addition to Monte’s care team, Monte and Sandi say the rapport they developed with the MyConsult nursing staff also greatly enhanced their experience. "While we were at Cleveland Clinic, we stopped in to meet the MyConsult nursing team and thank them for all they had done for us," says Sandi. "Although we had only spoken over the phone, we felt like we already knew them. Now that we’re back in Oklahoma, we keep in touch and send them regular updates on Monte’s progress."
Monte says since his surgery, he’s been feeling great. He’s back at work now and is looking forward to being able to golf again soon. "I think the best part about obtaining a MyConsult Second Opinion is that this innovative program is putting world-renowned medical professionals right at your fingertips when you need them most," says Monte. "The support we received from the MyConsult team and all of the staff we encountered during our time at Cleveland Clinic was unprecedented. I can’t recommend it enough."
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