Your Health Today Magazine

Healing hearts and helping hands

Jane Dycus

Jane Dycus sorts clothing for distribution to the homeless.

Surgeon gets church volunteer back to helping the homeless

Jane Dycus’ passion is the homeless. Every Friday night, with fellow members from Harbor Community Church of Barnhart, Jane takes to the streets with hot meals, blankets, coats and personal essentials.

That quest was put on hold temporarily after Jane visited cardiologist Farhaan Ahmad, MD, of St. Anthony’s Heart Specialty Associates for a checkup in August. An echocardiogram revealed Jane had an aneurysm – and that wasn’t all. The aneurysm had a tearing called an aortic dissection, Jane had blockage to one of her main coronary arteries, and her heart valve was worn out and narrowed. She was taken to St. Anthony’s Emergency Department immediately, and Dr. Farhaan Ahmad’s brother, cardiothoracic surgeon Umraan Ahmad, MD, was on his way.

Jane tried to downplay the concerns. Amazingly, she had felt no symptoms. She told caregivers that she had to feed the homeless on Friday nights.

“Honey, you’re not going to feed anybody if you don’t stay,” responded a nurse. Dr. Ahmad arrived and spent two hours explaining the procedure to Jane. To say she was frightened would be an understatement.

“I remember when I woke up after the surgery, my first thought was, ‘Yay! I’m going to be 70,’” she recalled. “Not only does Dr. Ahmad have healing hands, he has a healing heart. I don’t think I would have got through it without him.”

Rarely has Dr. Ahmad done so many repairs in one surgery.

“She not only had the aneurysm right where the artery connected to the heart, but the aneurysm was torn and becoming so thin that it was what we call an aortic dissection – that’s what the actor John Ritter died from,” he recalled. “A lot of people don’t even make it to the hospital. She also had evidence that she also didn’t have good blood supply to her heart, and had a valve that had been worn out and narrowed.”

In the complex surgery, Dr. Ahmad repaired the dissection in the artery, replaced the aneurysm part of her artery, reconstructed the artery above and below where it was torn, replaced her aortic valve and performed a bypass procedure.

In order to repair the tear in the artery, Jane’s body was cooled to 64°F for 30 minutes to preserve her organ and brain function while blood flow to her body was arrested. It required a skilled team to make the operation a success, including Floyd Daniel, Certified Cardiovascular Perfusionist, who used the heart and lung machine to cool, warm and support Jane’s body during the procedure. Her head was packed in ice while Dr. Ahmad performed the tricky surgery.

As Jane’s body was rewarmed slowly under constant monitoring, Dr. Ahmad repaired the heart valve and performed the bypass.

“I had the best care. Everybody was so super,” Jane recalled.

Jane bounced back in record time and completed 12 cardiac rehab visits; she returned in January to her teaching position at Jefferson College. And she’s back to her work rounding up donations and volunteers for her Friday night visits to her homeless friends, who also were praying for her.

“They become part of your family,” she said. “It’s really rewarding: I tell my husband I never feel so blessed as on Friday nights. One man calls me his angel.”