William Weller's Story
"I was so impressed with Bronson. I knew that everything was being done correctly and that Rex was getting the best care that could be given." ~ Donna Weller
Fit and physically active all his life, William "Rex" Weller never smoked or drank. His doctors told him he had the body of a man 20 years younger. And he was rarely sick. So when Rex, at almost 90, went into congestive heart failure, it was a frightening and unexpected experience for him and his family.
"We went to a cardiologist who told us that Rex had a valve problem," says Rex's wife Donna.
Rex and Donna, of Niles, were told that Rex needed surgery to replace the failing valve. But as Jehovah's Witnesses, undergoing major surgery created significant challenges for the Wellers. They could not allow Rex to receive a blood transfusion. Dr. Bhat of Cardiovascular Disease of Niles had referred other Witnesses to Chicago for bloodless surgeries. But Donna hated the thought of traveling to the congested city. The Wellers turned to their church's medical liaison committee, who referred them to Bronson Methodist Hospital and cardiac surgeon Zahir A. Rashid, MD. Dr. Rashid with Cardio Thoracic Surgery is also the Medical Director for Cardiac Surgery at Bronson.
"We couldn't find a heart surgeon in the Niles or St. Joe area that would touch him. They refused to operate without blood," Donna says. "Dr. Rashid understood what we needed."
Dr. Rashid, who joined Bronson in February of 2009, performs advanced surgical treatments like minimally invasive aortic and mitral valve replacement or repair using "key hole" incisions. The treatment is technically demanding and requires a high level of skill from the surgeon and the surgical team. The capability adds to Bronson's already highly regarded cardiac reputation. Bronson was named a Top 100 Heart Hospital by Thomson Reuters, 2008. This level of cardiac care, combined with Bronson's Blood Conservation Program, assured the Wellers that Rex was receiving the best care available.
In 2008, Bronson became the first and only hospital in southwest Michigan to formalize blood conservation into a full-service offering. Headed by Warren Behr, blood conservation coordinator, the program addresses a growing need of patients who are seeking safe and effective alternatives to blood transfusion because of religious convictions, medical concerns or personal preferences.
Rex was admitted for surgery on April 20, two days after his 90th birthday. "Warren was there when Rex had his surgery. He came to see Rex in the ICU. It was really comforting to me. Everyone was kind and cooperative. I was very happy with the way Bronson operated and the way we were treated. Dr. Rashid was just wonderful," Donna says. Dr. Rashid performed minimally invasive mitral valve repair surgery and Rex was released from the hospital four days later. Unlike open valve repair procedures, Rex did not have to have his breastbone broken to access the heart. A smaller incision causes less trauma to the body and speeds recovery. It also reduces blood loss.
"I was so impressed with Bronson," says Donna. "I knew that everything was being done correctly and that Rex was getting the best care that could be given without receiving blood. We got excellent care."