John Lieberman: A superhero makes a comeback
For John Lieberman, 84, of Bridgeville, the spring of 2019 was a period of heartbreak, illness and pain. In March, he lost his beloved wife of 64 years, Mary Ann; he developed near-fatal gastrointestinal bleeding; and he struggled with worsening aortic stenosis that left him weak and short of breath. A plumbing contractor who has never quite retired, John could no longer drive, had no appetite and was barely able to walk. He needed help, but his advanced age and a previous open heart procedure meant that he was not a candidate for surgery.
For John’s family, witnessing their father’s decline was excruciating. His six adult children and 17 grandchildren revere him and call him Superman. According to his daughter Amy, who shares a home with him in South Fayette, “My Dad is a superhero; he and my mother gave us a wonderful childhood and a happy home. He had his own business and was always in demand but he was home for dinner every night. He was the best father and everything he did was for his family. My mother was everything to my Dad. When he was in the hospital with the bleeding, we thought we were going to lose him too.”
Cardiologist Harshad R. Mehta, M.D., FACC had been monitoring John’s aortic stenosis for several years and when his symptoms grew more severe, referred John to Andy C. Kiser, M.D., FACS, FACC, FCCP, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at St. Clair. Initially, after an assessment of John’s condition and history, Dr. Kiser believed that John was too high-risk for even the TAVR procedure, which was conceived for ‘high-risk’ patients. Later, he offered John an option: have a coronary artery stent placed first, and if the stent worked he would schedule the TAVR procedure. Dr. Mehta’s partner, cardiologist Mark K. Greathouse, M.D., FACC performed the stent placement in late June. The procedure went smoothly and tests indicated that the stent was functioning perfectly. So, six weeks later, Dr. Kiser and interventional cardiologist Ryan W. Zuzek, M.D., FACC performed John’s TAVR procedure at St. Clair.
Two days later, John Lieberman went home, with a new aortic valve and a new lease on life. “I had no pain and no complications,” he says. “I can breathe again; I can walk and climb the stairs. I can walk up and down the street for 30 minutes. I feel like I can do anything. I’m so happy that there was a hospital and a team of doctors who were able to help me. Dr. Kiser and Dr. Zuzek gave me back my life.”
It has been an amazing turnaround, says daughter Amy. “Without TAVR, my Dad would not be here today. We are grateful to his team of doctors: Dr. Kiser, Dr. Zuzek, Dr. Mehta and Dr. Greathouse. They were all involved and made the experience as easy as possible for us. Dr. Kiser was so attentive to my Dad but also to the whole family; Dr. Zuzek took time to explain everything to us and put us at ease. Jamie Roland, R.N., St. Clair Hospital Valve Clinic Coordinator, took care of every detail and held our hands through it all. The care was excellent and every single person at St. Clair treated us well.”
John is looking forward to playing golf again and enjoying time with the adoring family that is more convinced than ever that he really is Superman. He still takes calls from customers who trust him and know the high quality of his work, says Amy; but, as always, family comes first. “We have a tradition of big celebrations for birthdays and holidays and now we have more to celebrate. Dr. Kiser and Dr. Zuzek have given us back our Superman.”
ANDY C. KISER, M.D., FACS, FACC, FCCP
Dr. Kiser is Chief of Cardiac Surgery at St. Clair Hospital. He earned a B.S. in biology with honors and distinction, and a medical degree with honors, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He subsequently completed a residency in general surgery there, as well as fellowships in cardiac and thoracic surgery. From 2011 to 2016, he served as the Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was also the Byah Thomason-Sanford Doxey Distinguished Professor of Surgery. Dr. Kiser then served as the J. Mark Williams Distinguished Professor in Cardiac Surgery, Chief of Cardiac Surgery, and the Director of Cardiovascular Surgical Services at East Carolina Heart Institute, which is affiliated with East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina. In May, 2018, Dr. Kiser earned an MBA degree from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, also part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Kiser practices with St. Clair Medical Services.
RYAN W. ZUZEK, M.D., FACC
Dr. Zuzek earned his medical degree at the National University of Ireland in Galway. His postgraduate training includes an internal medicine residency at the Cleveland Clinic, where he was later an attending physician. He then completed cardiology and interventional cardiology fellowships at Brown University hospitals in Providence, R.I. Dr. Zuzek is board-certified in internal medicine, general cardiology, interventional, and nuclear cardiology. He practices with US Heart and Vascular, P.C.