MD Insider: A Life-Changing Turnaround

​When Chuck Thiemann checked into The Christ Hospital, he had no idea what was wrong. He just knew he needed help.

“I started feeling very tired and didn't have any energy. I was light-headed and had no appetite — which for me is really unusual — and I was depressed. That got progressively worse until finally I told my wife ‘Listen. You've got to take me to the hospital. There's something very wrong with me. I have no idea what it is but I've never felt like this before.’”

Thiemann had never shown any signs of heart disease, but an angiogram during his hospitalization revealed multiple blockages in his coronary arteries.

As his general condition made open heart coronary bypass surgery too risky, his situation was precarious. “I was going to need up to six stents, which is very unusual and potentially dangerous. They said: ‘you have what we call the widowmaker,’” Thiemann says.

Fortunately, The Christ Hospital had recently recruited a highly trained Interventional Cardiologist named Robert Riley who was expertly trained to perform such complex and very risky procedures. “Dr. Riley told me that he could do the procedure and if successful, he would solve my problem. Since I felt like I was going to die anyhow, I told Dr.Riley to proceed.” Thiemann says.

Dr. Robert Riley, along with Drs. James Kong and Joel Reginelli, leads The Christ Hospital’s Complete Coronary Revascularization in Higher-Risk and Indicated Patients or “CHIP” Program, which offers advanced treatments to restore blood flow in coronary arteries of high-risk heart patients. This program was formally launched in mid-2017.

“Patients are living longer, so many of them develop more complex disease involving the heart and coronary arteries.

In addition, more patients are developing diabetes and kidney disease, which make their heart conditions more aggressive and difficult to treat.

“The ability to perform these types of procedures is not a luxury anymore. We are seeing significant numbers of these patients on a routine basis from all over the region because our program is unique and unlike any other in the state,” Dr. Riley says.

A significant amount of plaque needed to be removed during Thiemann’s procedure which Dr. Riley accomplished using only 4 total stents.

“I noticed a difference even when I was in the hospital. I feel better now than I've felt in several years,” Thiemann says.

Even Dr. Riley was surprised by the change at their first follow-up appointment.

“He came into the clinic, spring in his step, truly unbelievable. His depression was completely alleviated, meaning it was mostly due to his heart disease. He had improved to the point where his wife told me, ‘He is almost too active now! What am I supposed to do with him?’” Dr. Riley says.

The experience was so life-changing that Thiemann made a generous gift to The Christ Hospital to further develop, expand, and enhance the CHIP Program through clinical education and patient awareness.

“I can’t say enough about the procedure and what Dr. Riley did for me. I want other people to benefit. It saved my life. It's that simple,” Thiemann says.

Learn more about how our CHIP experts can help you or a loved one.