Nashua ophthalmologist Charles Wingate, MD has performed his share of surgeries in his 46-year career. When it was his turn to need a surgeon, Dr. Wingate’s experience was made easier by having top-notch cardiac care available right here in New Hampshire. “When I first heard I needed heart surgery, I figured I’d wind up in Boston. Well, I have some advice for people: Don’t waste your time going south—we’ve got a gem right here at Catholic Medical Center!”
Dr. Wingate’s journey to cardiac surgery began on October 7, 2020. “One minute, I was eating my lunch and the next minute, I thought, ‘I think I’m in AFib.’” AFib, or atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat out of sync with the lower chambers (ventricles). Typically, patients with AFib experience heart palpitations, which are caused by a rapid, uncontrolled heart rate. His first stop was an appointment with CMC’s Craig Berry, MD, FACC who practices at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua. Dr. Berry is part of the team at CMC’s New England Heart & Vascular Institute (NEHVI) which provides cardiology care at nine affiliate locations throughout New Hampshire. “They did some testing. Good thing they did since they sent me for a cardiac angiogram and found one of my coronary arteries had a 90% blockage.” It was also apparent that his aortic valve was not working properly, so Dr. Wingate was sent to see cardiovascular surgeon David Caparrelli, MD, FACS at NEHVI’s Manchester office. He was impressed with how easy it was to get the care he needed locally. “There is no more convenient place to be seen than at CMC. My care was seamless.”
Dr. Caparrelli performed open heart surgery to give Dr. Wingate a new aortic valve and also did a coronary artery bypass graft to manage the clogged artery. During the same operation, he clipped his left atrial appendage, a small sac in the left atria, to reduce Dr. Wingate’s stroke risk. Clots that form in the left atrial appendage are thought to be responsible for the majority of strokes in patients with AFib.
Following surgery, Dr. Wingate spent a few days in the hospital recovering. “I’ve been in a few hospitals in my day,” says the 77-year-old, “and I can honestly say it was great care. You press the button when you need something and the nurses were right there. I had eight-or-nine IV bags going at a time, two wires in my heart—let’s just say I had a lot of stuff going on. They were on it, lickety-split, right away, every time.”
Just weeks after his surgery, Dr. Wingate was back to practicing ophthalmology. And while he’s trained in conditions of the eye, he now has advice for patients needing complex cardiac surgery. “If someone needed this type of surgery and thought they needed to head to Boston, just put me on the phone. The entire experience was just great...no need.”