The nurse was impressed. Recuperating from robotic mitral valve repair surgery at Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute, Kenneth Kamp said a nurse performed a bedside echocardiogram on him and commended the repair. No sign of leakage. Something you’d expect in a valve replacement surgery but remarkable in a repair. Incredible job.
“I said, why don’t you tell him that,” Kemp laughs. Unbeknownst to the nurse, Kemp’s surgeon Asad Shah, M.D., co-director of the institute, had been standing in the doorway. “He came in the room and touched my foot and said, ‘I told you, you’d be alright.’”
Kemp never had any doubt.
A Los Angeles firefighter, Kemp undergoes rigorous physicals every year. At the age of 55, his exam uncovered a heart murmur. He had no symptoms and no idea that his mitral valve was leaking, but his cardiologist recommended surgery. When he told his parents about the diagnosis, Kemp’s father let him in on a secret: He was scheduled to undergo open heart surgery the next month with Dr. Shah.
“My dad keeps things close to the vest, but he said, ‘Why don’t you go see Dr. Shah?’”
Kemp’s cardiologist agreed, telling him, “I’m the best out here. But at Hoag, they’re even better.”
“They were right,” Kemp said. “Dr. Shah was so confident and reassuring. Everyone, from the nurses to the doctors, were amazing.”
Kemp’s first interaction was with Barbara Eklund-Horn, M.N.S., R.N., a cardiac nurse navigator.
“Barbara is just amazing. And then there is Dr. Shah, who is a mild-mannered, soft spoken, confident person,” he said. “I walked out after scheduling my heart surgery feeling good. How’s that possible? Everyone takes care of you there. That hospital has their act together.”
On July 25, 2022, five months after his father’s successful coronary bypass surgery, Kemp underwent a robotic mitral valve repair. Prior to the surgery, he had several consultations with Dr. Shah and Dipti Itchhaporia, M.D., the Eric & Sheila Samson Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Health and the director of disease management. He asked them if his surgery would force the 35-year fire veteran to retire.
“They said, ‘No. You’ll be back to 100% in six months,’” he said.
The 8-hour surgery involved five incisions and required that his right lung be deflated. But he was only in the hospital for five nights following the surgery, Kemp said, and all things considered he rather enjoyed his stay.
“Everyone is so nice, and you have this beautiful view of Newport Harbor,” he said.
He was given rehabilitation advice and tips while in the hospital and began his own regimen right away. Kemp was able to return to work after just eight weeks.
His father’s rehabilitation from open heart surgery was only slightly longer, but both father and son are back to full health.
“When I came home. I started with walks, at first just going 100 feet. Within two weeks, I was walking the block, and within three weeks, I was lifting light weights and doing aerobic exercise,” he said. “By four weeks. I was walking two miles a day and doing arm curls.”
He was able to skip prescribed cardiac rehabilitation and opted instead to stay in touch with Drs. Shah and Itchhaporia, as he prepared to go back to full duty.
“I was able to go back after just eight weeks,” he said. “I had no setbacks, and my follow-up echocardiograms have looked good.”
Asked where he is going for his follow-up care, Kemp laughed.
“Are you kidding me? I’m 100% with Hoag,” he said. “They treated me like I was their son or brother rather than just another body to them. They’re amazing. It’s just a different level.”