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We Take Your Health to Heart

Feeling on Top of the World 

Bill Schmidt

Six months prior to having extensive open heart surgery, Bill Schmidt took his grandchildren to an indoor rock climbing facility. He decided then and there that he would return after heart surgery to climb the wall. 

And he did. 

The 61-year-old scaled the facility’s massive man-made rock wall just 5.5 months after his surgery. Not stopping there, Bill—who admits that he’s “not the kind of person who sits long”—plans to climb the wall again soon and is looking forward to a kayaking trip. 

“I’m feeling on top of the world,” he says. 

That’s a far cry from the fatigue Bill experienced before his heart surgery at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center. 

Bill was born with a defective aortic valve, a condition that was carefully monitored by Scottsdale Healthcare cardiologist Bernard Villegas, MD. When calcium deposits closed down much of the valve and a dangerous bulge or aneurysm developed, leading to the possibility of an aortic rupture, Dr. Villegas advised that it was time for surgery. 

Bill turned to Scottsdale Healthcare cardiac surgeon Robert Riley, MD, who replaced his bicuspid aortic valve with a valve from a pig heart. Dr. Riley also replaced Bill’s ascending aorta and aortic root. 

“When you’re selecting a surgeon for something like this, you have to feel comfortable. Dr. Riley felt like an absolute friend right from the start,” says Bill. 

He has equally nice things to say about the people and care at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center. 

“From the people I met with before the surgery to the folks who did the angiogram and nurses after the surgery, my wife and I were so pleased with every person we came into contact with. They were great people—compassionate, understanding and friendly, especially in telemetry,” says Bill. 

He extends his compliment to the nutrition and exercise experts who helped him while undergoing Scottsdale Healthcare’s cardiac rehabilitation program after surgery. “The tips I learned on eating right, cooking and dining out are still with me,” says Bill, who proudly acknowledges that he’s adopted a healthy lifestyle since his open heart surgery. 

A smoker for 44 years, he’s now kicked the habit. Bill also hikes frequently, participated in a walk-a-thon for heart disease, moved a mountain of bricks in his back yard and took out a large tree stump not long after his surgery. 

Additionally, Bill (who describes himself as “one of the original cookie monsters) now watches the amount of sweets he eats, as well as the amount of red meat. A quality and safety coordinator for a local evaporative cooler manufacturing company, he’s also watching his stress level. 

“The people at Scottsdale Healthcare all went to work to do what they do best and were on top of their game because they knew someone’s life was in their hands,” Bill says. “They definitely have my thumbs up.”

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