BayCare, St. Joseph’s Hospital Continuity of Care Saves Lives

February 28, 2024
Brittany sits in a chair in her hospital gown at the hospital smiling and holding a stuffed heart.
Williams remains positive throughout her cardiac procedures.

 

Brittany Williams was feeling great when she decided to go the gym in July 2023. But during a short workout, she fell ill and was rushed to the emergency center at BayCare’s St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Although she wasn’t a stranger to cardiac episodes – an event in 2014 resulted in the implantation of a defibrillator and a pacemaker – she still was concerned about what was happening this time and what would come next. 

Because of the continuity of care between BayCare hospitals – Williams received her follow-up care and surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital (SJH) in Tampa -- she is grateful for the clinical excellence displayed at all levels.  

“Starting with the treatment I received at St. Anthony’s Hospital to my last procedure at SJH, the seamless transition of care helped ease my worries throughout my journey,” Williams said. 

To understand how Williams came to BayCare hospitals, you have to go back to New York City in 2014 when she suffered cardiac arrest and lost consciousness while dining with her family. Two nearby physicians detected no pulse and administered CPR. Paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator to shock her heart back in rhythm. 

Physicians at a local hospital diagnosed her with Long QT Syndrome, a disease that can cause dangerous and fast chaotic heart arrhythmias. Physicians implanted an internal defibrillator and pacemaker to monitor her heartbeat and shock her heart back in rhythm if she experienced another event. 

“For the past nine years she was doing well,” said Shalin Shah, MD, a BayCare Medical Group cardiac electrophysiologist, who has seen Williams since her first cardiac event. “But her arrhythmias became worse.”

After the 2023 event, Dr. Shah recommended a procedure called cardiac ablation and for Williams to complete a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).   

Cardiac ablation procedures use radio-frequency energy or other sources to terminate or modify a faulty electrical pathway from sections of the heart for those who are prone to developing cardiac arrhythmias. A TEE uses sound waves that create pictures of the heart to ensure there are no blood clots present. 

While performing the cardiac ablation and TEE, Dr. Shah said that Williams had a severely leaky mitral valve. The mitral valve keeps blood moving in the right direction in the heart. Issues with the valve make the heart pump harder and can lead to congestive heart failure. 
 
Even with her extensive familiarity with cardiac procedures, Williams wasn’t prepared for what doctors told her.  

“I was just waking up from the ablation procedure when they were telling me the news” she said. “I was terrified and could not believe what they discovered during the procedure.” 

Brittany and Dr. Sherman photographed in a physician office together.
Williams stands alongside Andrew Sherman, MD, BayCare Medical Group thoracic and cardiac surgeon.
To fix the mitral valve, Williams chose Andrew Sherman, MD, a BayCare Medical Group thoracic and cardiac surgeon who practices at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “I found out that he is one of the best thoracic and cardiac surgeons in the world, and he is an expert in repairing mitral valves,” she said.  

When repairing mitral valves, Dr. Sherman’s goal is always to repair the valve first and not replace it, especially with patients at a young age like Williams, who is 33. A surgery date was set as Dr. Sherman eased Williams' worries. 

“The experience from the beginning to end was amazing,” Williams said. “In pre-op I started to get nervous, but all the nurses were calming me down and reassuring me that everything was going to be fine. It was exactly what I needed.”   

“She came to me faced with the new challenges of severe valve leakage and multiple arrhythmias,” Dr. Sherman said. “We were able to successfully perform a complex repair with her own heart valve tissue and perform a surgical ablation.” 

The day after surgery the physical therapy team visited Williams to help her get up and walking. 
 
“You want me to get up and walk after I just had open heart surgery yesterday,” Williams remembers telling the physical therapy team. “As much as I did not want to get up and attempt to walk, I knew that it was what I needed to do to recover quickly and get my circulation moving in the body.” 
 
A blonde woman in a blue hospital gown walks unassisted.
Williams triumphantly walks unassisted through the halls of South Joseph's Hospital.
Williams' condition continued to improve as she moved from the ICU into a less acute unit. By day three, Williams was walking with no assistance, proud of herself for coming so far in only a few days.  

Williams' worries returned when her discharge day arrived. BayCare HomeCare helped Williams regain her confidence with the services they offered. Nurses were able to come to her house for two weeks after she was discharged.  

“That gave me so much reassurance because I was still being monitored and looked after,” Williams said. “It was the best thing about leaving.”
  
BayCare has complex cardiac surgical teams at St. Joseph's Hospital, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and Winter Haven Hospital in Winter Haven that perform many highly complex cardiac surgeries. 

For more information about BayCare and St. Joseph’s Hospital Cardiac services, visit:  
https://baycare.org/locations/hospitals/st-josephs-hospital/services/heart-and-vascular/heart-institute 
 

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