Published on August 29, 2019

Lemont Man Has Lifesaving Heart Surgery at Silver Cross Just days after Vacation - Heart Attack in Dominican Republic

Ross Lillwitz was enjoying a pleasant family vacation in Punta Cana this summer, Dominican Republic, when things took an unexpected and frightening turn.

Ross LillwitzPhoto caption: Ross Lillwitz is getting his heart back in shape following lifesaving open heart surgery at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

He started experiencing severe back pain and indigestion. Concerned about the way he was feeling, Ross went to see a doctor in Punta Cana, who delivered the shocking news he’d had a heart attack. He was hospitalized for the next two and half days before he was stable enough to return home to Lemont.

Ross’s wife Diane reached out to their primary care doctors who recommended he go straight to Silver Cross Hospital and meet with interventional cardiologist Dr. Abdul Sankari, who admitted Ross to Silver Cross that same day. 

“When we met with Dr. Sankari, he first scheduled an electrocardiogram and then an echocardiogram. After the tests were reviewed, I had an angiogram,” Lillwitz said.

Dr. Abdul Sankari said the tests showed Lillwitz’s arteries were blocked between 80 and 90 percent.

“After the angiogram, it was clear that he had multiple blocked arteries, which affected the function of his heart muscle,” Dr. Sankari said. “The best way to fix it would be to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery.”

Thankfully, Silver Cross had recently started its open heart surgery program, so Ross could stay exactly where he was without having to be transferred to another hospital. Dr. Pat Pappas, thoracic and cardiac surgeon, performed the quadruple bypass surgery two days later.

“After meeting them, I knew things would be just fine,” Ross said. “I got the best of care from the time I was admitted until the time I was discharged.”

He complimented his entire heart care team.

“There are three very special people that cared for me during the most difficult times: my nurse Jen in ICU, nurse Misty who cared for me once out of the ICU, and Dr. Pappas’ nurse practitioner, Peyton. There is no doubt in my mind that these three care givers are living the mission they were born to live,” he said.   

Nine days after being admitted to Silver Cross, the grateful family man was back in the comfort of his own home. He’s currently in cardiac rehabilitation at Silver Cross three days a week.

“Now that I’m in cardiac rehab three days a week, I’m making great progress and feeling stronger every day,” he said. “The physical therapists and nurses are motivating and always have a watchful eye on me. I like to push myself a little too hard at times. The educational classes once a week are also very helpful.”

He’s also forever grateful to Dr. Sankari and Dr. Pappas, who were instrumental in his recovery and new lease on life.

“The best way I can show my appreciation and respect for these great men is to pay it forward,” he added. “They gave me an opportunity to not only get well, but to be better.”

Open Heart Surgery Program at Silver Cross

Silver Cross Hospital’s much-anticipated heart surgery program is off to a busy start since it debuted in May of this year. The new program was unanimously approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board last December.

Since then, Silver Cross has been preparing for the program by working on expanding the Procedural Care Unit (PCU) on the second floor.

In 2020, two additional state-of-the-art operating rooms will be added, along with a “hybrid room” equipped with advanced medical imaging devices to support minimally invasive surgery.

In addition, a dedicated cardiac care unit will open later this fall on the first floor directly below the PCU to care for patients after heart surgery, and will eventually be serviced with a dedicated elevator between the two units when the expansion is completed next year.

Silver Cross currently has the eighth largest cardiac catheterization program in the State of Illinois and leads the local market for outpatient cardiac procedures performed annually. In 2017 alone, Silver Cross performed more than 3,500 diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterizations, an 11 percent increase over the previous year. And between 2015 and 2016, diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterizations performed at Silver Cross Hospital increased by 13%.     

Through the hospital’s future structural heart program, minimally invasive catheter-based technology will be used to treat life-threatening valve disorders and structural heart defects. Minimally invasive approaches translate to better outcomes for patients, including a lower risk of infection and complications, reduced trauma to the chest (since the chest doesn’t have to be opened), a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery. 

Best of all, Silver Cross patients who need heart surgery now can have it right in New Lenox, close to home and their families. 

“Silver Cross offers the full spectrum of heart care services that our community needs,” said Silver Cross President/CEO Ruth Colby. “That means heart patients no longer have to experience the stress and anxiety of having to leave their preferred hospital and travel for advanced heart care.”

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.