During her 87 years, Bev Frier has not shied away from challenges. When her first husband passed away suddenly in 1967, she had to plunge into her first job outside the home and sell her house so she could support her two children.
Fast forward a few decades and the hard working entrepreneur’s resume has featured ownership of two fabric stores (one in Naperville) and four music stores. Over the years, she’s balanced an active role in Naperville civic organizations and chalked up thousands of miles in the air as a licensed pilot.
But in the last several years, Frier faced a different kind of challenge: living with an aortic aneurysm. An aneurysm, which is a bulge in the wall of an artery, can expand and rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding. Frier’s aneurysm was in the ascending portion of the aorta, a more serious location because it’s the section closest to the heart.
Frier’s aneurysm was diagnosed in 2011 during an ER visit. Since then, Frier checked in with her cardiologist, Sharon Cline, M.D., of DuPage Medical Group, every six months to see if the aneurysm had grown to the concerning size of 5 cm, the point when surgery is often considered.
It became obvious that the aneurysm was slowly growing. In December 2014, when Frier consulted cardiac surgeon Bryan Foy, M.D., of Cardiac Surgery Associates, her aneurysm was 5.4 cm.
"If someone her age (with an aneurysm) were frail, surgery probably would not be considered," says Dr. Foy. "But because Bev Frier is in pretty good condition and her physiological age is younger than her chronological age, surgery was a reasonable option. I explained the risks to her and her son-in law, and told her the choice was hers."
Frier continued her biannual check-ups as she weighed the pros and cons.
"One day last summer I wasn’t feeling well," she recalls. "I asked myself, 'Is this the day I’m going to go? Well I’m not ready. I have too much to do! And I don’t like walking around with a ticking time bomb.'"
Not being one to make important decisions without thorough research, Frier talked to friends, neighbors and medical personnel at various hospitals before choosing Dr. Foy as her surgeon. Her son and daughter collaborated on a three-page questionnaire for prospective doctors. She discovered Dr. Foy successfully performs hundreds of aortic aneurysm surgeries each year. As a bonus, she was happy to learn that like her, he’s a pilot.
Says Dr. Foy, "When you are facing major surgery like this it’s important to look for an institution where the surgeons are doing high-end, complex surgeries regularly."
Dr. Foy performed Frier’s aneurysm repair on Sept. 7, 2017 at Edward Heart Hospital.
"It’s open-heart surgery," says Dr. Foy. "We open the chest, put the patient on the heart-lung machine, remove the aneurysm and replace (the damaged area) with a synthetic graft."
He reports the surgery was a success, so Frier won’t have to worry about her "ticking time bomb."
"I asked how long before I feel as I did before,” says Frier. "They said six to 12 months. I am doing well and practically recovered already. Dr. Foy told me they’ve extended my lifetime warranty to age 110."
Frier completed Phases I and II of Cardiac Rehab and moved on to Phase III. In the first two phases, patients are on a heart monitor during their tailored exercise programs. In Phase III, the maintenance program, patients are no longer monitored but are still supervised by cardiac nurses and/or rehab specialists.
Says Frier, "I can’t think of one thing from the surgeon to the nurses that could have been done better. It’s great to have such an excellent hospital as Edward, and it’s so close to us."
To find out if you’re at risk for heart disease, take an online HeartAware assessment. You can also call 877-45-HEART to schedule a heart scan or make an appointment online.
Learn more about heart and vascular services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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