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Gerald

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The Heart of Care

Helping people is my passion

Gerald Wingard has been a child psychologist for 50 years. He has advanced degrees from University of Chicago and Notre Dame and has dedicated his life to working with children suffering from depression and anxiety. “I feel like it’s a calling,” he says. “Helping people is my passion.”

But in October 2018, it was Gerald that would need help, although he couldn’t have known it. Early in 2017, Gerald needed cataract surgery. As part of routine testing prior to the surgery, he says, “They listened to my heart and found a heart murmur.”

He was initially diagnosed with mild Aortic Stenosis, however in just under two years his condition quickly deteriorated from mild to severe to critical. Yet, even at its worst, Gerald was still asymptomatic. “Usually people with this are very tired, out of breath and they can’t do much. I had none of that,” he explains. “I didn’t see it coming.”

By October 2018, Gerald was told his condition would require surgery to replace his main aortic valve. “I thought, ‘I feel fine… this can’t be real!’ But they told me I was far from fine and, without the surgery, I might not live to see another year.”

I was far from fine… without the surgery, I might not live to see another year. – Gerald

Breakthrough care – Close to home

But that wasn’t going to work for Gerald. “I felt like I had more to do on this earth.” Fortunately, he was a candidate for TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement. TAVR uses a thin tube called a catheter, which is threaded through the blood vessels to reach the heart valve instead of opening up the chest and removing the diseased valve. A new valve is inserted into the aortic valve through the catheter and pushes the diseased valve’s leaflets (the flaps that open and close, allowing blood to flow through the valve) aside.

For patients like Gerald, TAVR can life changing. “Two years ago, this would have required open heart surgery. I would have been laid up in the hospital for weeks, in pain and out of work for months.” He did his research and concluded that Beacon Elkhart General Hospital was the right place to be, calling Dr. Weirick and team “the best in the business.” He adds, “This is breakthrough surgery. We’re extremely fortunate to have this available in our community.” At the present time, Elkhart and Memorial Hospital are the only ones in the area that offer TAVR as an option.

This is breakthrough surgery. We’re extremely fortunate to have this available in our community. – Gerald

Gerald’s surgery took only 1.5 hours on a Monday. The morning after his surgery, his doctors checked in on him, ran a few tests and by noon he was on his way back home. “On Wednesday, I was back to work! I had no pain. No discomfort. It was unbelievable.”

Looking ahead with laughter and joy

At age 75, he’s back doing what he loves most – caring for his patients and spending as much time as possible with his wife, kids and grandkids (his adult children span the globe from San Antonio to Ontario to Switzerland). He and his wife, Sandy, love flowers and spend many enjoyable hours landscaping their 6-acres.

As for work, Gerald hasn’t slowed down a bit. He starts his day at 4:30 a.m. to review paperwork and starts seeing patients from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. “People say ‘you must be exhausted!’” Gerald exclaims. “Actually, I’m energized!”

It’s a gift he does not take for granted. “In the two years leading up to my procedure, two people I knew passed away with the same issue I had. They did not know their heart was in critical condition.” Gerald feels very fortunate – he exudes laughter and joy – and lives by the same philosophy he teaches patients: “The label we put on something determines how we feel, not the other way around,” he explains. “If your car breaks down, you can be miserable, or you can label it as an adventure. If I’m going to die, I can say: Oh, woe is me! Or, I can say: Wow, what a life I’ve lived! I’m going to make the most of what’s left!”

TAVR – Lifesaving Treatment for Severe Aortic Stenosis

If you have severe aortic stenosis and have been told you are not a candidate for open-heart surgery, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) could be an option for you. Our TAVR care team is trained and highly experienced in this potentially lifesaving procedure.

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About Beacon Heart and Vascular Care

Whether you live with an ongoing heart or blood vessel problem or have a life-changing emergency, your Beacon care team is here to help.

Beacon Health Foundation’s focus is a direct outgrowth of Beacon Health System’s deep commitment to enhancing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of the communities we serve. Our tax exempt identification number is 35-1536129.

*The quotations provided in this article are part of a testimonial from Gerald Wingard; a patient at Beacon Memorial Hospital.