Grateful hearts

Categories: Donor Stories

A cardiac patient and his family donate to the new Hybrid OR.

Southport residents Bill and Donna Waltrip crisscrossed the country during his years as an executive in the airline industry, living in Denver; Washington, DC; Miami; and New York City. Originally from Tulsa, OK, the couple were childhood playmates. They met in a treehouse.

“Bill belonged to the neighborhood treehouse club,” explained Donna. “Although there were only boys in the club, he urged the other boys to let me join. So I did.”

Shortly after, Donna’s family moved across town but the duo reunited in high school, when they started dating. Bill started college but left for a stint in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1957. Following his service, they were married, had their eldest daughter and were whisked off to New York City for Bill’s job.

Other than the birth of their two daughters, both Donna and Bill were fortunate enough to avoid major hospital stays throughout their cross-country travels.

But at age 59, Bill had his first cardiac procedure — triple coronary artery bypass surgery — at Bridgeport Hospital. In the 21 years since that surgery, Bill has had numerous stents implanted and a procedure to remove the plaque from his carotid artery.

In 2015, Bill’s health took a turn for the worse but the cardiac team at Bridgeport Hospital would not stop fighting for him. At one point, while Bill was in the Intensive Care Unit after emergency surgery, cardiologists Mitchell
Driesman, MD, and Edward Tuohy, MD, alternated sleeping at the hospital to monitor his tenuous condition.

“We both have had a lot of operations, and in different hospitals, but everyone our age usually has. The knees, the hips and all that stuff,” said Donna.

The Waltrips were so delighted with the care Bill received at Bridgeport Hospital, they didn’t hesitate when asked for a donation to help fund a new Hybrid Operating Room. Bill wishes that Bridgeport had the specialty OR back in 2015.

The Hybrid OR, which opened in May 2017, features an angiography suite and traditional operating room with a built-in imaging unit for high quality, low-dose X-rays. Physicians can perform minimally invasive advanced cardiac and vascular procedures with real-time imaging, which gives detailed views to improve accuracy and outcomes, including a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery.

“All of the nurses and doctors could not have been better, more attentive or kinder,” said Donna.

Bill, now 80, feels great and is back to playing the golf course adjacent to his home. He and Donna are appreciative of every minute together.

“We have been married almost 60 years, so there is a lot of history and a lot of almost losing him,” said Donna. “I wish we had millions to donate because we just believe so much in Bridgeport Hospital.