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Patient with Rare Connective Tissue Disorder Grateful to Hoag

It can be difficult to visual what Hoag’s “multidisciplinary approach” to patient care really means.

But when Lauren Wiepking hears the term, a crystal-clear picture comes to mind: Ten specialists – some of the top medical experts in their fields – working closely together to ensure she receives the finest care for her condition – Vascular Ehlers Danlos (vEDS), an inherited connective tissue condition. Connective tissue is found throughout the body and is responsible for helping the body grow properly. vEDS patients have compromised connective tissue and are at an increased risk of arterial ruptures; in addition, they are at risk for ruptures of internal organs such as the uterus and colon.

Lauren was born with vEDS and was so grateful to have found Hoag to manage her care. “Not all hospitals have the kind of expertise like Hoag does to care for me. I have numerous specialists, including Dr. Liang and Dr. Caffarelli tracking my health,” said Lauren.

Hoag offers a comprehensive center for patients with connective tissue disorders, like Lauren, through the Elaine & Robert Matranga Aortic Center, led by Anthony Caffarelli, M.D., the Newkirk Family Endowed Chair in Aortic Care and Director of Cardiac Surgery, and the Hoag Marfan Syndrome & Related Conditions Program, led by connective tissue condition specialist and program director David Liang, M.D. Lauren said she never experienced such well-rounded care and support from such a comprehensive, skilled team.

This extensive team support was especially needed when Lauren became pregnant.

“Pregnancy in vEDS patients is extremely risky. vEDS patients can experience ruptures or aneurysms anytime throughout pregnancy, and most especially during delivery,” said Dr. Liang. “Lauren and her husband received prenatal counseling at Hoag to set expectations of the how Hoag could support her through the pregnancy and delivery. Once the team learned of Lauren’s pregnancy they pulled together a multidisciplinary team of experts, across a spectrum of specialties, to account for every possibility.”

“There were 10 surgeons and specialists who knew my case to a great extent and were there to support me no matter what. I felt so confident in Hoag and in this incredible team,” Lauren said of the recent delivery of her daughter, Avery.

Dr. Caffarelli is a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon who performs a high-volume of complex aortic surgeries that are deemed too complicated for most surgeons. Though Lauren was familiar with the unparalleled expertise of the Elaine & Robert Matranga Aortic Center, it wasn’t until her pregnancy that she fully appreciated Hoag’s rich roster of world-class the physician leaders.

Marlin Mills, M.D. captained the delivery, bringing on board perinatologist Michael Haydon, M.D., who specializes in high-risk deliveries; cardiologist Jeffrey Bruss, M.D.; anesthesiologist Aaron Yezbick, M.D., who has extensive experience with high-risk cardiac patients; several surgeons, including vascular surgeon Stephen Lindsay, M.D. and gynecologic surgeon Alberto Mendivil, M.D., was also on-hand for the delivery, in case of arterial rupture or in case Lauren required an emergency hysterectomy.

“Drs. Liang and Caffarelli referred me to multiple specialists,” she said. “And they had the doctors’ offices call me directly to schedule my appointments, so I didn’t have to worry about researching and finding all the different specialists and surgeons I needed.”

The stakes were high, but Hoag’s expertise gave Lauren confidence.

“Knowing I have this hospital nearby with these amazing doctors who can provide this level of care and this depth of knowledge about my case, is incredible,” she said. “It’s a relatively rare disease. To have people who take that time to get to know me and my care, it’s so comforting.”

To Lauren, Hoag went so above and beyond in her care, that now many of her family members who also have vEDS are getting their care from Hoag, too.

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