Wrapping up heart month: Three women share their joy, straight from the heart

A look back at how three U-M patients are doing today

As we near the end of Heart Month, here’s a look back at some of the patients who shared their U-M experiences with us in 2014. All three have a story to tell about the joy in their hearts, thanks in part to the doctors at the University of Michigan.

Baby Ethan is thriving

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Baby Ethan, with brother Emiliano, is thriving.

Last May, a special team joined hundreds of U-M employees on the campus of Eastern Michigan University for the American Heart Association’s 2014 Washtenaw County Heart Walk/5K Run. This effort to help fight heart disease and stroke was particularly meaningful for the team named  “Ethan’s Emissaries.”

The 26-member group was walking in honor of an unborn child who had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare condition in which the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped. Ethan was born May 22, just 12 days after the walk in his honor.

Today, according to his mother, Betty Esquivel, a medical assistant in U-M’s bone marrow transplant clinic, he is thriving. As expected, Ethan has faced several operations, including surgery four days after birth for a heart shunt and again five months later to remove the shunt, which he had outgrown.

Betty says Ethan requires extra precautions to keep him from getting a cold or virus, which could affect his heart. Otherwise, he’s doing even better than U-M doctors originally thought. “He’s gaining weight and isn’t too far behind in his development,” Betty says proudly.

Betty, her husband Andres and their two-year-old son Emiliano have welcomed Ethan into the family with open arms, thankful for the joy this special child has brought to their lives.

Read more about Ethan’s story.

Artist Lori Eslick is two-time survivor

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Lori Eslick finds joy in her artwork.

Lori Eslick feels fortunate that she survived two aortic root aneurysms. Both required surgery, which was performed by Dr. Himanshu Patel in 2009 and 2013.Today, as an active mother, exerciser and artist, Lori says she’s feeling healthy and happy, and is forever grateful to the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular team.

She recently came back to U-M for a tooth extraction at the U-M School of Dentistry, a choice she made due to her faith in the University of Michigan. “I needed antibiotics via IV prior to dental work due to my heart history,” Lori says. “I went to U-M because I felt secure there.”

The talented artist says she received a call before Christmas from a U-M employee who had read Lori’s story and wanted to purchase one of her paintings for her husband, who was experiencing a similar heart condition. “I sent the painting along with a note of encouragement to this man, who was so happy to receive them both,” Lori says.

Lori is still running outdoors, although the temperatures have kept her workouts indoors on some days. And she’s never far from her painting tools. “I paint in celebration,” she says. “It is pure joy for me.”

Read more about Lori’s story.

View Lori’s series of ongoing paintings.

Performer Joann Drayton is back onstage

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Keith and Joann Drayton are once again in the spotlight.

Joann Drayton came to the U-M Frankel CVC in 2005 because of her atrial fibrillation (A-fib) condition, an abnormal type of heart rhythm. Before becoming a U-M patient, Joann had been taking up to eight medications, which kept her from doing the things she loved, including singing, performing and managing choreography for her theater group at Jackson Community College.

When she became of patient of Dr. Hakan Oral, Joann’s medications were significantly reduced to the point where she is now back to living a full life as a voice teacher and manager of five recitals each year. “Dr. Oral immediately understood me in a way most cardiologists did not. He listened to me and was so respectful of my needs,” she says.

Joann manages the recitals with her husband, Keith, also a patient of Dr. Oral, who performed an ablation for Keith’s arrhythmia. “He feels better than ever,” Joann says, noting that he has come out of retirement and is now working in real estate.

Joann is thrilled to be able to experience the joy of singing and choreography, thanks to Dr. Oral and the U-M CVC team. “I am forever grateful to be back on the stage,” she says.

Read more about Joann’s story.

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.