Doctors and Staff Train Together to Make History

Six days after undergoing open-heart surgery to receive a permanent left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, Alan Oelschlager suffered a stroke. From that day forward, he and his wife began the journey down the road to recovery.

After a two-month stay at UF Health Shands Hospital, it was time for Oelschlager to be discharged to a rehab facility. Though Oelschlager lives in Deltona, Fla., Juan Aranda-Amador, M.D., Oelschlager’s cardiologist at UF Health, the LVAD team and Oelschlager’s physical and occupational therapists decided Oelschlager should go to UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital.

Aranda said this was the perfect time to collaborate with the staff at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital to make history. Prior to Oelschlager’s admission, UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital had never admitted a patient with an LVAD device. An LVAD is a device used to mechanically support circulation to the heart for patients in severe congestive heart failure. Patients like Oelschlager need the LVAD to keep them alive by pumping blood to and from the heart.

Oelschlager was admitted in April and began his journey to recovery. When he arrived, he couldn’t walk. He couldn’t talk. Looking back, he says he wasn’t afraid because he trusted his team of doctors and nurses to make sure everyone had the proper training to take care of him.

“The thing I was most afraid of was working my butt off,” Oelschlager joked. “I really wasn’t sure what I would be capable of.”

Lisa Dowd, B.S.N., R.N., C.R.R.N., N.E.-B.C., director of nursing and patient services at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, said the biggest hurdle for staff was fear of the unknown.

“Our staff had never taken care of a patient with such severe heart problems. In the beginning, this was new and frightening,” Dowd said. “But after staff was trained and after they had worked with Alan for a while, their confidence levels went through the roof.

Dowd said this is an excellent example of collaboration between the doctors and nurses at UF Health Shands Hospital and the doctors, nurses and therapists at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital.

“This is an exciting time for all of us,” Dowd said. “We are doing things for the first time, and it is all because we are working together. It’s an awesome accomplishment.”

Dowd and Oelschlager’s wife agree that Oelschlager has had the best possible outcome.

“This has been a wonderful and unique experience,” Oelschlager said. “I have had so much encouragement from all of the staff here. When I walked down the halls, the nurses were cheering for me, literally cheering.”

The Oelschlagers have been married for 30 years, and they have always been close. But Oelschlager’s wife said they have never laughed harder or communicated better than they have through this experience.

“This has been our grand adventure,” she said.

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Nickie Doria's picture

Nickie Doria

Nickie Doria, A.P.R., joined the UF Health Communications team in 2010. She has 18 years of marketing and public relations experience. Currently, she serves as a marketing and public...Read More