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Farmer gets a new heart in the middle of a pandemic

Ascension St. Vincent doctors urges Hoosiers to continue their routine health care visits
Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 17:23:41-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A lot of things have been put on hold during the pandemic but some doctors are urging Hoosiers to not put their health on hold.

At Ascension St. Vincent, doctors say they are still seeing people skip routine health screenings, visits that can be made safely and effectively virtually or in-person if need be.

Richard York is a family man and a farmer.

"We grow soybeans, corn and wheat, barley and everything else," York said. "It's just doing something and watching what you did grow. And then harvest it and take it to town. I love it. I truly love it."

In 1992, York was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a weak and enlarged heart. His condition started rapidly deteriorating in the last few years.

The man who loves to put in the work in the field was taken off the farm.

"I farmed until six years ago and I had to quit because my heart was starting to get bad," York said. "I was just wore out all the time."

In May 2019, York was put on a heart transplant list. And with his condition, the window was getting smaller for him to get a new heart.

18 months later, York got the call that a heart was available for him in Indianapolis, which also meant an invasive procedure at a hospital in the middle of a pandemic.

"You don't have no choice," York said. "I mean, you know, hearts don't come up every day. You got to take advantage of it when it comes and I, if I quit, you know the chance may never come up again. I knew myself that I wouldn't last a whole lot longer. So I stayed on the list, if it comes it comes and if it don't, I was content."

York's commitment to his health, to continue to be there for his family, is what kept him disciplined with his medical visits, both in person and virtually when possible.

Richard York

The 66-year-old is a month post-op.

"Mr. York is doing unbelievably well," Dr. Sunit-Preet Chaudhry said. "He has basically back to doing his normal levels of activity. I anticipate that if somebody didn't know him, they wouldn't know he has a weak heart in the past."

Chaudhry is York's cardiologist at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis.

The fear of the pandemic and being seen in-person has made many Hoosiers stray from seeing their doctor but skipping routine health screenings can create even more problems.

"We don't know how long COVID is going to be around for," Chaudhry said. "My personal feeling is that this is something we are going to have to live with at least for the next few months and unfortunately as people know, medical or health problems don't wait for COVID."

There are options that are safe to make sure your health stays in check at Ascension St. Vincent, as well as other hospital systems across the state.

Chaudhry says at Ascension St. Vincent, they have predominantly been doing virtual visits as much as possible.

"I do think that they get in general the same level of care," Chaudhry said. "A lot of medical care is just listening to the patient and then going through what the potential problems could be. There is, the hands-on feeling is lost a little bit. But we are able to use things like smart devices and phones to actually see the patients face to face and I would say a majority of what we need to do, or if we need to see in person, that can also be accomplished through a virtual visit."

Continuing his care through the Coronavirus pandemic is what has allowed York to get back to the farm and his family.

"If I wake up it is a good day," York said. "If you don't wake up, you don't wake up. I just kept going. My wife, I promised myself I would stay around as long as I could to keep Diane happy. So if I make a promise, I will do everything I can to keep it. I feel good now, I feel really good. It is amazing."