"You can have some wacky thoughts when you're waiting for answers to your medical problems," says Carl DeCunzo, a retiree living in Coconut Creek, Fla. "The longer it takes, the longer you worry."
Anyone who has ever waited around for laboratory results or other medical tests can understand what DeCunzo means. It is only human to wonder: "Will the test show that I need surgery? Will it reveal that the blood in my urine is due to kidney failure? Or will it determine that the growth is cancer?"
In DeCunzo's case, he was wondering what to do about his heart. Should he have additional stents inserted in his arteries? Should he have bypass surgery? Or should he just stay on his medications and see what happens? When it's your heart and your life, these decisions are of great consequence.
"While my wife and I were wondering what to do, my daughter stepped in to help," he says. A registered dietician who developed programming for eDiets.com, an online nutrition service, DeCunzo's daughter is familiar with how people can benefit from electronic, Web-based services. Consequently, she suggested that her father use MyConsult, a Cleveland Clinic program.
The MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program is a sophisticated, Web-based extension of Cleveland Clinic's 90-plus-year role as one of America's most respected referral institutions. The secure, online service provides medical second opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,200 life-threatening and life-changing diagnoses.
"The best part of using MyConsult was that it was extremely fast," says DeCunzo. "We mailed everything out on a Friday, and we got the report from the Cleveland Clinic the following Wednesday. They agreed with everything my doctors here had said, and they gave a prognosis on what to expect in the future.
"The worst-case scenario would be that I'd have to have open-heart surgery," he adds. "If it came to that, I'd go up to Cleveland Clinic because they're rated as the best."
Overcoming health problems
DeCunzo's medical worries began in 1996 when he developed lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system. Despite chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the cancer recurred three years later, and DeCunzo had a stem cell transplant. In 2003, he had another recurrence. This time he was given medications to control the cancer.
"From '99 on, I was always getting short winded," DeCunzo says. "The doctors told me my lungs were damaged from the extensive chemotherapy I had, which made them unable to expand to full capacity. But a pulmonary doctor said that we'd better do a stress test to make sure it wasn't heart trouble."
It was fortunate that they conducted the stress test because DeCunzo's shortness of breath was related, at least in part, to coronary artery disease, which may have been exacerbated by the radiation therapy he underwent. A heart specialist near his home repaired his heart by inserting two stents, which are special tubes used to prop open narrowed arteries, so that blood flow to the heart muscle is improved.
"MyConsult made me feel relieved and more comfortable with the medical care I'm getting," says DeCunzo. "Today you have to check. There's so much new stuff coming out all the time. I feel that if a doctor or hospital is associated with a university or is involved in research, then they're up to date with everything."
Newly retired, DeCunzo wants to be in good health, as he looks forward to enjoying more leisure time with family and friends. He moved to Florida from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1987 when he was transferred with Pan American Airlines. When the air carrier went out of business, he began working for his hometown, the City of Coconut Creek, as facilities supervisor. He retired several months ago.
"It's been six months now since I had the two stents put in, and I'm feeling good," he notes. "I took a stress test recently and things seem good. Whenever the weather is nice enough, I go for walks with my wife, Catherine. Life is good, and my mind is at ease, thanks to the Cleveland Clinic MyConsult program and my doctors. It also helps to have faith."