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This Lee Health’s A-Team Saved a Patient’s Life

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health


Greg Ford Group PictureGreg Ford with his Lee Physician Group care team at our recent commercial shoot.

If you belong to Greg Ford’s generation, you may recall a popular phrase from the hit television show, The A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

And boy, does Greg love the plan his healthcare team at Lee Physician Group put together to save his life.

Greg’s first visit with Dr. Stephanie Waisanen, a Lee Health physician board certified in Family Medicine, was originally a routine appointment.

He’s a big believer in doing the things necessary to care for himself, including regular visits with his primary care doctor.

“For me, it’s important to see my doctor regularly and stay current with my screenings, especially as I get older,” he says. “If I didn’t have that relationship with my doctor, I wouldn’t be here today to share my story.”

Greg hails from “Ohio, The Heart of It All.” When the 73-year-old retired in 2018 as vice president of sales and marketing for a chemical company, he underwent a Medicare wellness exam, which included an aortic (the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs) ultrasound screening of his abdomen.

The ultrasound scan found evidence of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which occurs when an area of the aorta becomes very large or balloons out. It occurs due to weakness in the wall of the artery.

Read: Learn more about factors that can increase your risk of having an abdominal aneurysm.

However, because his healthcare provider didn’t communicate this finding to him, Greg had no idea of his abdominal aneurysm.

But he would in 2022. After relocating to Gateway Golf and Country Club in Fort Myers, where he and his wife share a home (an avid golfer, Greg sports an 8-handicap), he needed a new primary care doctor.

That’s when he contacted Lee Health and scheduled that “routine examination” with Dr. Waisanen.

“During my exam, she asked me what I was doing to monitor my aneurysm,” Greg recalls. “I had no idea what she was talking about. Dr. Waisanen had found the original image of the ultrasound of my abdominal aneurysm before our meeting. I was blown away.

“She had taken the time to do all this research on me as a patient before ever meeting me. I’ve never had a doctor do that before.”

Next steps

Dr. Waisanen discussed the risks of having surgery to repair the aneurysm. The goal, she said, is to do surgery before complications develop. Some aneurysms can be monitored with regular ultrasound tests if they are small and cause no symptoms.

“You conjure up stuff in your mind when you hear of people dying of aneurysms,” Greg says. “The things I conjured were not good. Now you have something inside you that can explode at any time. I was nervous about all this, for sure. Here I was, walking around with this ticking time bomb inside me, which could explode at any time.”

But Greg says Dr. Waisanen’s calm demeanor reassured him, easing many of his fears.

When Dr. Waisanen consulted with Dr. Rodrigo Ruiz Gamboa, a vascular surgeon with Lee Physician Group, the plan to save Greg’s life began to come together.

“Dr. Gamboa and Dr. Waisanen explained what could happen if I didn’t have surgery to repair the aneurysm,” Greg says. “I was told that if it ruptured, I could die because the chances of saving me would be slim. The aneurysm was a sac on the side of the aorta with a 95 percent chance of rupture.”

Greg had the surgery in June at Cape Coral Hospital. The procedure took 45 minutes under general anesthesia. Greg went home the next day with instructions to say off the links for the next three or four days.

Now, he returns every three months for an ultrasound to monitor the repair. Soon that schedule will extend to six months and, if all goes well, then to a yearly check-up.

“Since I’ve been here at Lee Health, everybody I’ve met has been wonderful to me. The care I have received has been wonderful and heartfelt, from the support staff to the doctors, everyone,” Greg says. “I’m very, very grateful. They helped save my life.”

Meet Greg’s A-Team at Lee Health:

  • Dr. Stephanie Waisanen, Family Medicine, Board Certified
  • Dr. Rodrigo Ruiz Gamboa, Vascular Surgery, Board Certified in both General and Vascular Surgery
  • Claudine Eschenwal, MRI Tech
  • Becky Cunningham, Medical Assistant
  • Alfonso Garcia, Laboratory Assistant II
  • Kalliopi Alverez, Customer Service Representative

Watch: Greg’s testimony on the Lee Health YouTube page.

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