At age 54, with no history of heart disease, Rong Fang had never experienced chest pain before. So when the pain began, along with dizziness and difficulty breathing, he knew something was wrong.
A Kaiser Permanente member since 2000, Fang is a custodian at the University of California, Berkeley. He went to see his primary care physician, Albert Yu, MD, at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. After hearing Fang’s symptoms, Dr. Yu sent him to the emergency department immediately.
With Fang’s condition worsening, the ED team consulted cardiologist Matthew Solomon, MD, PhD.
A rare but deadly cardiac condition
“I heard a loud murmur with my stethoscope and I knew something was seriously wrong, possibly a ruptured heart valve, which is a rare but deadly complication of a heart attack,” recalled Dr. Solomon.
He performed a bedside ultrasound that confirmed Fang had a leaky mitral valve. Blood does not move through the heart or body efficiently in such cases, which can lead to heart failure.
“I knew we had to act fast,” Dr. Solomon said.
Open heart surgery saves a life
Dr. Solomon called his colleague, Ahmad Sheikh, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the San Francisco Medical Center, one of Kaiser Permanente’s 3 Northern California centers for cardiac surgery. They decided to transfer Fang there for urgent open-heart surgery to repair the damaged valve.
“I was alone and so nervous. My wife and daughter were in China,” Fang recalled. “But Dr. Solomon and the team talked me through the surgery, and the nurses were so supportive. I felt cared for and began to feel calm.”
Centralizing complex care for improved results
“Kaiser Permanente has distinguished itself by improving outcomes through centralizing such complex, high-acuity cases,” Dr. Sheikh said. “I saw Mr. Fang and we got him into surgery a few hours later. He recovered well and returned home in a matter of days.”
Now back at work, Fang is enjoying life — particularly walks on the beach near his home in Alameda. He continues to see Dr. Solomon regularly to review medications and discuss any concerns.
“These are the types of experiences that make you proud to work in our integrated care delivery system,” said Dr. Solomon. “We put the patient at the center of everything we do and work together seamlessly to return them to healthy, active lives.”