Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute
Our Stories


Blessed to have Hoag to Turn To

Susan and John Spiezia

Susan Spiezia remembers wondering why she was so out of breath while skiing in Deer Valley, UT. She’d never had any health issues. Her only experience as a patient was delivering her three children at Hoag.

When she and her husband John returned home, she expected a routine visit with a cardiologist. But she was floored when her cardiologist explained that she was in full atrial fibrillation. Her heart was beating way too fast and when medication and cardioversions did not solve the problem, she was referred to Jay H. Lee, M.D., at Hoag’s Arrhythmia Management. Further tests confirmed that she also had a mitral valve that was not properly working, which prevented her heart from efficiently pumping blood. She would have to undergo open heart surgery to repair the mitral valve and control the A-fib.

With John steadfast at her side, Susan remembers the fear and doubt that clouded her mind. That changed when the couple met with Anthony D. Caffarelli, M.D., director of Hoag’s Aortic Center and Hoag Cardiovascular Surgery.

“I was so frightened but five minutes after meeting with Dr. Caffarelli, I felt immediate confidence in him,” shares Susan. “There was no question in my mind that we were at the right place and in the right hands.”

Susan credits everyone on Dr. Lee’s and Dr. Caffarelli’s teams for supporting her through what became a life-affirming event. Dr. Caffarelli’s surgery was a success and when she was moved out of the cardio intensive care unit and into a regular hospital room, a big fluffy therapy dog had stopped in to say ‘hello.’ With the kindness and compassion of the nurses and Hoag staff, she felt blessed.

“Some people have said that 2016 was a bad year for me, but I don’t see it that way,” she says. “A part of my body needed repair and it was such a blessing that I could go to Dr. Lee and Dr. Caffarelli and their respective teams at Hoag.”

Susan was further delighted when she could complete her cardiac rehab at the newly opened Hoag Health Center Irvine, which is conveniently located near her home. A few months later, Susan and John danced the night away at the 50th Annual Christmas Carol Ball. Not only will they make the ball a part of their annual holiday calendar, she also hopes to train a lab puppy to be a therapy dog so she too can give Hoag patients a delightful memory.

“Months after the surgery, I felt like I could do anything and was able to resume my active lifestyle,” she says. “I am so grateful to God, family and friends for their support. I tell anyone who asks if they should have these procedures to go to the wonderful doctors at Hoag.”

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