Would Alan Play Hockey Again After Heart Surgery?
By Adam Pick on March 21, 2018
His passion was hockey. His diagnosis was severe heart valve disease. His fear… Never playing hockey again.
This is Alan’s story…
Many thanks to Alan Steinberg for meeting with me to share his triumph of getting back on the ice after heart valve surgery. I loved hearing his story and I loved his inspirational attitude toward the procedure and his remarkable recovery.
Keep on tickin’ and skatin’ Alan!
P.S. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I posted a written transcript of the Alan’s success story video below.
Alan Steinberg: What I love about hockey is when I was a kid, I was a New York Rangers fan, and I played street hockey. There was something about what your body had to do, with things moving at that pace, that appealed to me. I’m Alan Steinberg from Rockaway Beach, New York. I live in upper peninsula of Michigan in a little town called Iron Mountain. I’m a professional writer, a journalist, and an educator.
I was initially diagnosed with aortic valve insufficiency. The interesting thing about whether or not I had symptoms was I was completely asymptomatic. My first thought was, I will no longer be playing competitive ice hockey, and I thought that’s not acceptable. When I was diagnosed and I had to choose who was going to do this surgery, I ended up selecting Dr. Patrick McCarthy. I was loaded with questions, and one of the first questions I asked him and his team, I said, “So tell me what my real odds are of surviving this surgery.” He looked me in the eye and he said, “Look, I have a 99% success rate with this surgery, and you,” he says leaning forward, “are not in the 1%.”
Missy Moddrell: My name is Missy Moddrell. I’m a Physician Assistant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Cardiac Surgery. Mr. Steinberg had severe aortic regurgitation, and we replaced his aortic valve through a minimally invasive procedure. Patients should feel very comfortable here at Northwestern because this is something that we do everyday, and we do have kind of a strict regimen that we follow for our patients.
Missy Moddrell, PA-C (Physician Assistant)
Janice Knuckey: My name is Janice Knuckey. I’m a Nurse Practitioner, and I work in the Cardiac Surgery Outpatient Clinic at Northwestern. I see patients with Dr. McCarthy in the Cardiac Surgery Clinic for their consultations. I will get them ready for surgery, make sure all their testing is completed, and make sure everything’s ready. I also see them in their followup when they come for their post-op visits.
When we see patients in clinic, I believe there is a lot of anxiety about cardiac surgery. I think it’s normal. Everyone does recover and heal differently. Some patients need to be patient about the recovery because then they get frustrated, because they feel like they can’t do the things that they want to do.
Janice Knuckey, APN/C-NP (Nurse Practitioner)
Alan Steinberg: The surgery was remarkably successful. I had absolutely no issues. I found out that I came through it very quickly, faster than he does these normally on people my age.
Missy Moddrell: I think Mr. Steinberg came into his surgery very healthy. He was very active. He had a great attitude. The combination of those things helped him recover very quickly from his surgery.
Alan Steinberg: My post-op recovery was so critical in my mind, it was beyond amazing to have people of the quality of Janice and Missy on my team.
Missy Moddrell: I would want patients to know that in the ICU after surgery we have a very comprehensive team managing their care. The nurses, the physician assistants, the nurse practitioner; there’s the physicians, the critical care doctors, the cardiologists. There’s a huge team of people that are all caring for our patients after surgery.
Alan Steinberg: Honestly speaking, my first game on the ice I was so relaxed, it never occurred to me I hadn’t been playing. I show up and the guys are stunned, and they’re all over me like, “Are you okay?” if I got an elbow, and I’d drop the gloves and go, “You want to go?” We’re all having fun. The goal was, you’re going to want to feel normal. You want to get back to feeling what you think normal is, so you add up what I had in my mind, the feedback I got at Chicago Northwestern, you saved a life in my view. How could I be anymore grateful for that? How do you be grateful for that?