Article originally published Spring 2023 in The Monitor magazine.
John “Jack” Campbell, 70, has led an interesting life. Never afraid to pursue his passion, he spent several decades as an artist, creating blown glass art and sculptures. In recent years, Jack shifted his focus to yet another passion project: taking on the role of interpretative historian with Fairfield County Park District. It’s a job that not only keeps him physically active, but also connects him to his roots.
“I live in Canal Winchester now, but I grew up in Lancaster,” Jack said. “I’ve spent most of my life here. Between being a historian at Rock Mill and a canal buff, it gives me a chance to explore and share these places with others.”
For a short time, however, it was unclear how long Jack would be able to continue this labor of love. As his health declined in 2022, he found himself feeling exhausted, short of breath and forgetful. His heart was failing, and Jack knew it was time to turn to his trusted team at Fairfield Medical Center for help.
Jack’s relationship with Fairfield Healthcare Professionals Cardiology began several years ago under the care of cardiologist Michael Reinig, DO. In addition to being born with a congenital heart defect known as a bicuspid valve, a bout of rheumatic fever left Jack’s aortic heart valve permanently scarred at the age of four. For most of his life, Jack’s only reminder of his condition was an asymptomatic heart murmur. He went on to become an athlete, artist, family man, coach and – finally – a historian before he began experiencing symptoms that couldn’t be ignored.
“Working at Rock Mill, my day usually begins with walking down into the gorge,” Jack said. “Of course, that also means coming back up. I couldn’t do that anymore. I was having a hard time walking. I struggled to catch my breath. I stopped exploring because I thought it was a thing of the past – and then I went and saw my doctor.”
During an annual visit to FHP Cardiology, Dr. Reinig informed Jack that an ultrasound of his heart (echocardiogram), revealed significant worsening of his aortic valve disease. When this happens, the leaflets, or flaps, of the valve become thickened and leaky, making the heart work overtime to pump blood to the rest of the body. In fact, his heart function was declining to dangerously low levels, prompting the discussion of valve replacement with the help of interventionalist John Lazarus, MD, PhD, and FMC’s Structural Heart Team. As Jack learned more about what this might mean, he also learned about TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement).
“TAVR is a minimally invasive alternative to traditional or open-heart valve replacement,” Dr. Lazarus said. “This procedure is performed right here at Fairfield Medical Center, and it involves placing an artificial heart valve inside the damaged valve rather than removing it entirely. Most patients experience a noticeable improvement in symptoms with a quicker recovery and less pain.”
Given the option between TAVR and traditional open-heart surgery, Jack chose to undergo TAVR on July 27, 2022. It was a decision that he says changed his life almost immediately.
“I could tell I felt better as I was sitting in recovery,” Jack said. “I can’t explain how quickly this procedure restored my health. I didn’t know how bad I felt until I felt better, and the difference is incredible.”
Following his one-hour procedure, Jack spent two days under observation at Fairfield Medical Center. During this time, his care team consulted with healthcare providers to help Jack better manage his diabetes, a condition that can also negatively impact heart health. For Jack, this was another example of his team going the extra mile.
“From explaining the procedure to performing the procedure with expertise and seeing me through the recovery, I felt like I had a support system the whole way,” Jack said. “That’s what sets Fairfield Medical Center apart from other places. I felt like they all connected with me on a personal level and wanted to make sure they cared for me as an individual, not a number.”
After his discharge, Jack was instructed to follow up with cardiac rehabilitation. The supervised exercise program was an added benefit that Jack hadn’t anticipated. In 12 weeks, he improved his endurance, rebuilt his strength, and improved his overall health by losing weight. Since returning to work for Fairfield County Park District, he has continued his exercise regimen – and he’s never felt better.
“I feel 10 to 15 years younger, and other people have noticed,” Jack said. “I walk 4 to 5 miles a day. My memory has improved. I have more energy. I’m doing things now that I never thought I’d do again. This procedure has set me up for a future of doing what I love, and that is a blessing from Fairfield Medical Center.”