Patient Testimonials and Reviews
I would definitely recommend Dr. Laudito to everyone including my friends, family and myself again. ‘My heart belongs to him.’
It was Tuesday morning around 8 a.m. and my husband had already left to take our four-year-old daughter to school and then, he was heading off to work. My mother-in-law who was spending a few days in our house was still sleeping. It was a day like any other and little did I know it was going to be a life changing day for me and my family.
I was getting ready to go to work and while I was brushing my teeth I had a sudden sharp pain in the center of my chest, anteriorly. It was such a strong pain that I bent over and put my hand on my chest, thinking at the same time what could possibly be going wrong with me. I thought it was gas or heartburn and I was positive it would go away. However, it took me just a few seconds to realize I probably was not going to get any better. Although I wanted to ignore my symptoms, there was this sense of impending doom that made me call 911 for the first time in my life.
Being in the healthcare field and working in cardiology as a nurse practitioner had me analyzing myself, family history and symptoms from the beginning. Although I had a previous history of moderate to severe mitral valve prolapse (MVP), I was afraid that was not the problem. That is when the diagnosis of aortic dissection crossed my mind. There is a strong history of sudden death on my father’s side. He died at 57-years-old from what we think was a heart attack and two of his sisters died the same way in their 50s. My Dad and I had the same physical characteristics; we both grew up skinny with relatively long extremities and scoliosis. I also have a narrow palate, MVP, stretch marks and heal with keloids. All of these are characteristics of patients with a connective tissue disorder that causes blood vessels to be elastic, causing aneurysms and aortic dissection.
With the suspicion of having an aortic dissection I asked fire-rescue who arrived to treat me to also measure my blood pressure (BP) in both arms since a difference in BP of around 20 mmHg is a sign of aortic dissections. By the time I was put into the ambulance, my heart rate was in the 50s, which is not normal for me and confirmed my suspicion that something was seriously wrong.
I was then taken to Palmetto General Hospital. By 8:30 a.m., I was in the emergency room. My life-saving heart care started right at that moment. Aortic dissections are one of the most catastrophic cardiac emergencies because a delayed intervention can be fatal for the patient. However, Dr. Antonio Laudito, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Palmetto General Hospital was in another surgery at the time so his team, and colleague, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Roger Carrillo initiated the preparation for my surgery.
As soon as Dr. Laudito finished with the other surgery, he presented to the emergency room (ER) to introduce himself and to explain the procedure to my family and myself. After a very sad and painful goodbye to my family, thinking I was never going to see them again, I was taken to the operating room. My heart surgery at Palmetto General Hospital with Dr. Laudito lasted over eight hours. I had to be placed on cardiopulmonary bypass (heart-lung machine) which means a machine does the work of the heart and lungs pumping oxygenated blood while the heart is arrested. Further, I was also placed in hypothermic circulatory arrest, where my body temperature was 20C (68F) and there was no blood circulation in my body. Besides the complexity of the aortic dissection repair itself, there was my mitral valve defect. Under a lot of pressure due to the possibility of imminent death, Dr. Laudito quickly repaired my mitral valve and then proceeded with the aortic dissection repair. My aortic dissection was repaired with a procedure called Bentall in which my ascending aorta and valve were removed and replaced with an artificial graft with a built in valve. I also had my left atrial appendage removed, a place in the heart where blood clots are most commonly formed. Aortic dissections are most of the time fatal cardiac emergencies. Had I not gone to the hospital, I would have died. In fact, I could have died any time since the onset of my symptoms. Once the aorta ruptures there’s no coming back. Also, it takes very knowledgeable, skillful and dedicated surgeons and operating room (OR) teams to perform and have good patient outcomes in this type of surgical procedure.
Meeting Dr. Laudito, even in the circumstances I met him has been a blessing. I have never met a surgeon like him. His bedside manners are exceptional. Besides being a brilliant surgeon, he is dedicated, compassionate and is very involved in his patients’ care and recovery. I remember he used to demand other professionals involved in my care that I would get out of bed and walk. He gets to my room one day and finds me sitting in the chair. I had no strength at all. He asked ‘have you walked?’ I said, ‘I can’t.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Yes you can,’ he asked my brother to grab me from one arm while he was holding the other. Then, Dr. Laudito asked my husband to carry the tubes and lines I was connected to and said ‘you are going to walk now.’ He got me out of the chair, over to the room door and brought me back to the chair. I have never seen a doctor do that before. That day, my whole rehabilitation actually started.
There was not one day Dr. Laudito would not come inside my room next to me holding my hands, answering all my questions and reassuring me everything was going to be OK. He was very patient with me and my family. He also had a great collaborating team. My intensivist, also played a great part in my post op care. She is another one of a kind. She was very attentive to me and my family. She and Dr. Laudito have both become part of my family. I should also mention how grateful I am to the great group of nurses, physical therapy, occupational therapist and ancillary staff from the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU). The care I received at Palmetto General Hospital was beyond what I expected.
My follow-up appointments with Dr. Laudito were at his Tenet Florida Cardiovascular Care medical office, conveniently located on the campus of Palmetto General Hospital. Dr. Laudito’s office staff always makes me feel like a very important person (VIP). Everyone from the medical assistant to the front desk staff in his office is really nice and professional. I would definitely recommend Dr. Laudito to everyone including my friends, family and myself again. ‘My heart belongs to him.’
Today, I feel great physically and emotionally. I am back to my old self but with a different way to view and enjoy life. I now enjoy even the little things I took for granted in the past. I am back to work, driving and even riding my bike in the neighborhood where I live with no limitations. I am enjoying every minute of this second opportunity Dr. Laudito has given me next to my loved ones. My family and I will be forever grateful.