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Heart Healthy, Heartfelt Care at Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care


It seemed like out of the blue came the news of an urgent need for heart valve surgery to repair my leaky heart from my trusted cardiologist Dr. John Harding.

Even though the news was bleak, Dr Harding enthusiastically shared the fortunate circumstance of the renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. W. Clark Hargrove’s leaving the University of Pennsylvania and coming to none other than the Doylestown Hospital’s Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care. “He will be perfect for you Viv,” were Dr. Harding’s reassuring words which faded amid my panic stricken thoughts of facing “the gallows” of open heart surgery.

How could this be happening to me? My dear Dr. Harding gently assured me that he would be by my side during the whole process, and, little did I know that he really meant that totally and sincerely. “I will be there every step of the way” and so he was, visiting every day to check in on me and my progress.

Coincidentally, on the day of my pre-admission testing, I ran into the CEO of Doylestown Health, Jim Brexler. No wonder Doylestown Hospital has such a good name with Jim at the helm of the ship.

As it turns out, my husband and I met Jim and his wife, Kelly, at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Doylestown. Jim exemplifies a wise, homespun, special brand of individual with genuine people interest. How nice it was to have had several check-in visits by Jim during my weeklong stay. He was authentically concerned with my feelings, emotions and needs during my stay. In addition, I had a beautiful room with a spectacular view of the woods and, as if that wasn’t enough, I had access to the gorgeous meeting room/lounge to eat my heart-healthy meals and watch the passersby.

And now, to the surgery itself. ... When Dr. Hargrove met with me prior to surgery, he treated me every bit like a beloved family member. I felt heard and understood and as if flooded by genuine loving concern by a knowing and compassionate expert. I even felt comfortable admitting I was concerned about the length of my scar, I legitimately felt my fears melting away which is truly saying something for a control freak like me.

Before going under, I could palpably feel the Swiss watch precision of the team. Then, suddenly recovery, which was accompanied by an outpouring of such loving and skillful care by the expert team of cardiac nurses and attending physicians. I was cared for like a newborn baby it seemed.

As the days went by, I met and interacted with a number of cardiac nurses and each, with their own signature offerings. They worked like a tag team without skipping a beat ... no kidding. Each nurse was so generous and helpful, from getting me a special cup of morning Keurig coffee to supplying their own personal brand of better shampoo and conditioner and swapping shopping tips. I actually felt like I was accepted into a kind of high school sleepover and I miss that. I have my take- home stuffed red heart pillow as a “transitional object” to remind me of all the heartfelt care I received.

A special thank you to Audra, who is so gracious with her gift of quiet understanding in an awkward moment. How impressive from someone so young. Thanks also to Jacyln, Andrea, Heather, Marianne, Pam, Holly and Sarah.

I also loved the special caring and human approach of all of the attending doctors and the encouraging and final thrust of Dr. David Smith who encouraged me to push past a little glitch and to envision the goal line just ahead. Another impressive player was Dr Tran,the smart, young partner to Dr. Hargrove.

In short, I feel that I have been touched by the magic of Dr. W. Clark Hargrove and his chosen team of experts who have added years to my heart health and forever tugged at my “heartstrings” As a psychotherapist, I know the value in life of feeling like you matter and my friends at the Woodall Center have that down to a perfect beat.

Vivian Francescco lives in Doylestown.