How Joan and Robert are conquering cardiac distress

One couple shares their patient-doctor relationship and its role in their quality of life

THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF HEROES in this world. From the fictional sort we all know and love from classic comic books to the real-life soldiers of our Armed Forces — and even everyday heroes, such as firefighters and other emergency responders — we have come to know certain roles as champions for protecting our way (and quality) of life.

For Joan Chadsey — a 78-year-old local resident — her cardiac distress called for a different kind of aid … a heart hero. She was feeling out of sorts about a year ago, and wondered if maybe it could be her heart. “I just wasn’t feeling too well, and I didn’t have a clue as to what was wrong,” Joan recalls. The statistics show that she was right to suspect a heart or vascular problem; it’s the leading cause of death in women in the U.S.

Like any person in need of help, she would first turn to the people closest to her — her sweetheart, 78-year-old Robert Al Rivard, who also had a history of heart health problems. So she asked him who he saw for his own cardiac care, and the story that followed surprised her.

He told her about a time that his defibrillator quit working, so he drove himself to see his cardiologist, Dr. Irfan Siddiqui, at the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida in Davenport. “He said to me, ‘Bob, you never should have done that. You should have called an ambulance and gone to the hospital,’ ” Robert recalls. As he was already at the doctor’s office, Dr. Siddiqui went ahead and phoned for an ambulance. However, when the medical transport services arrived, they refused to take Robert to the hospital. Committed to ensuring his patient’s safety, Dr. Siddiqui drove Robert to Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Davenport himself. “That showed me right then and there that Dr. Siddiqui really cared,” shares Joan.

So, “I decided to see Dr. Siddiqui, also,” Joan recalls, “and he was very relaxed. He would sit there and talk with you as long as you wanted him to.” Luckily, after a battery of tests — a stress test, a test for a heart murmur, cardiac catheterization, checking her legs for blockages and more — Joan didn’t have any issues with her heart or cardiovascular system. She’ll still see Dr. Siddiqui from time to time for preventive care because her loyalty as a patient was initiated by his care of Robert, and later set in stone after Dr. Siddiqui and his office helped her with a medical insurance matter concerning her visit.

While Joan hasn’t had any further issues, Robert sees Dr. Siddiqui to monitor his heart valve, his pacemaker, and defibrillator, the last two of which Dr. Siddiqui performed the surgery for himself. Dr. Siddiqui maintains that Joan and Robert “are great patients who we provide care to and improved their quality of life.”

As for Joan and Robert, they both have nothing but glowing reviews for Dr. Siddiqui. The communication between the two of us is super,” asserts Robert. “Any time I call him or ask him a question, he either tells me to come in or he’ll answer me right off.”

The good doctor has made it the mission of the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida to improve the heart health of Central Florida natives. It’s a tall order. Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S. In fact, cardiovascular diseases kill more people than all types of cancers combined, claiming approximately 1 million Americans each year. Called the “equal-opportunity killer,” cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of most racial and ethnic groups. In Florida, there were 57,410 deaths in 2014 due to major cardiovascular diseases, accounting for three out of 10 lives lost, according to the Florida Department of Health. Those numbers alone call for more heart heroes, but the statistics for women are even more calamitous.

According to, 90 percent of women in the U.S. have at least one risk factor for developing heart disease, and one in three women will be killed by heart disease. However, only one in five women believes that heart disease poses as large a threat as it actually does. In Polk County, the latest data from the Florida Department of Health shows that both women and men had a higher death rate per 100,000 residents than the state’s rate.

These are sobering statistics that Dr. Siddiqui’s Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida is hoping to change. Upon completing his training and board certification in Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology at Michigan State University and the University of Utah, Dr. Siddiqui came to Central Florida and started his own practice. He recently opened a new cardiac center in Davenport.

“It’s a state-of-the-art, brand-new facility, approximately 10,000 square feet. It’s a full cardiac center,” Dr. Siddiqui explains. The facility is fully equipped with all the equipment and technology necessary to treat cardio and vascular patients, such as a cardiac catheterization lab, a cardiac PET scan machine — the only one in Polk County — an imaging center, an Echo Vascular lab, and more. Dr. Siddiqui adds that the facility is also a real-world classroom for the medical students he hosts as an associate professor at the University of Central Florida.

While the equipment used in treatment is cutting-edge and impressive, patients like Joan and Robert rave not about the technology, but about their cardiologist’s ability to create a positive patient-doctor relationship that utilizes excellent communication skills at its core. “I see the patient as a whole, not just focusing on one area,” Dr. Siddiqui shares. “The whole key is just listening to the patient.”

For patients like Joan and Robert, the impacts to their overall health are a direct result of their physician’s level of caring. “He’ll sit there and talk to you. He’ll tell you the results of the tests you’ve taken,” Joan explains. “Instead of spending five minutes like in other doctor’s offices, he’ll spend 15 to 20 minutes, if not longer.” Those 10 or 15 extra minutes may not seem like much, but for nearly 1 million Americans a year, it could be the difference between life or death.


article by ERIKA ALDRICH

Posted January 29, 2016

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