Local resident has a new life after heart surgery at Temecula Valley Hospital

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Tom James and wife Laurie
Tom James, who underwent emergency heart surgery at Temecula Valley Hospital, poses for a photo with his wife Laurie James. Valley News/Courtesy photo

TEMECULA – “I couldn’t even make it up the stairs. I’d stop halfway up. I couldn’t breathe and felt a squeezing on my heart,” Tom James, local resident and Temecula Valley Hospital patient, said. “I went like that for over a month. I wasn’t going anywhere, let alone a hospital, during the COVID-19 quarantine.”

The pain continued to get worse. James’ wife of 45 years, Laurie James knew he needed to get into the hospital for a procedure for his heart. With a history of heart complications, she said she worried daily.

The couple, both over the age of 65, did everything they needed to do to be safe. They stayed in the house for over two months. They had their groceries delivered. They visited with family, including their three sons and their families, outside, 6 feet away from one another.

It took a call from the doctor to convince Tom James to have surgery. Cardiologist Dr. Jeffery Chung called one evening and pleaded to him to get in for a heart procedure at Temecula Valley Hospital. Chung reassured him that the hospital was safe and had implemented additional safety protocols during COVID-19.

Darlene Wetton, CEO, Temecula Valley Hospital, said she knows there is a big misconception in the region about quarantine procedures.

“At this time, when home isolation is often encouraged, we want to remind the community that this is not the same as medical isolation,” Wetton said. “Unfortunately, we have begun to see patients that have waited too long to come to the emergency department for their life-threatening conditions, due to an understandable fear of being exposed to COVID-19. We would like to stress to the community that prolonged medical isolation for concerning symptoms may have detrimental effects on your health and we encourage you to seek immediate medical care in these situations.”

Tom James underwent his emergency surgery, and he said he couldn’t believe how safe the hospital was when he arrived. The hospital was clean, the team safe and professional, it was nothing like what he had imagined during a pandemic, he said.

“The team was amazing, everything was absolutely wonderful,” Tom James said. “We pulled up to the hospital. I went in after they checked my temperature, and we followed the safety protocols, including no visitation at this time within the hospital.”

After Tom James had his procedure by cardiologist Dr. Steve Jin to clear his blockage, he said, “I called Laurie once I was in recovery and told her the surgery gave me a new life.”

Now, Tom James is feeling great, he said. He is back at home with a new perspective on life. He said he hopes his story can help others to not be afraid to go in and get the treatment they need and to trust the health care professionals.

“I am so glad I finally went into Temecula Valley Hospital.  Before my surgery, I was thinking every day was my last. Temecula Valley Hospital saved my life,” he said. “I am playing out in the pool now. It is a miracle.”

Temecula Valley Hospital, with a 5 Star Medicare Hospital Compare rating, brings advanced technology, innovative programs, patient-centered and family sensitive care to area residents featuring 140 private patient rooms. Temecula Valley Hospital is the first Universal Health Services Hospital Emergency Department in the country to achieve accreditation from the American College of Emergency Physicians as a Geriatric Emergency Department.

Temecula Valley Hospital specializes in advanced cardiac services, stroke care, general and surgical specialties, and orthopedics as a recent Blue Distinction Center Designation for Quality in knee and hip replacement surgeries. Temecula Valley Hospital is nationally recognized for patient safety by the Leapfrog Group, with a 2017 Top Hospital Award and seven “A” grades for patient safety.

For more information, visit https://www.temeculavalleyhospital.com/about/news.

Submitted by Temecula Valley Hospital.