Sean Temple is clearly someone who values stability. He’s a homeowner. He has three children whom he raised as a single father, including a son with special needs.
He’s been happy working at the same place for more than 30 years. For 11 of those years, Temple was a patient with the same cardiology practice at Hahnemann University Hospital.
Then came a series of unforeseen events. Hahnemann shut down in the summer of 2019. The closure forced his primary cardiologist to relocate his practice out of the city.
“I felt abandoned,” Temple says. He continued taking his medication, but barely had time to find a new doctor when COVID-19 struck.
Then he got deathly ill. Temple had severe congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation, a potentially dangerous abnormal heart rhythm. In early June, he called 911 and was taken by ambulance to Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia.
“He was critically ill,” says Syed Hasni, MD, who evaluated Temple in Einstein’s emergency department. He was in cardiogenic shock, meaning that his damaged heart wasn’t pumping nearly enough blood through his body.
Dr. Hasni deeply sympathized with Temple’s plight. “You lose your hospital. You lose your doctors and before you know it, COVID-19 hits. You have no doctors in the middle of the pandemic and you’re a sick patient who needs care.”
But Dr. Hasni and Temple soon realized they had something in common: Dr. Hasni had practiced at Hahnemann for 20 years. He’d started there as a resident and stayed on until the hospital closed.
Indeed, Sean Temple’s cardiologist at Hahnemann had been Dr. Hasni’s mentor and teacher. So Dr. Hasni telephoned him at his new practice and immediately got the medical history he needed to treat Temple.
A Heart Pump, Later Bariatric Surgery
“When I got to Einstein, they were very helpful,” Temple says. “They were very thorough, very knowledgeable and did all kinds of tests on me.”
But by then, “he was on his death bed,” Dr. Hasni says, adding that he had a decision to make. “We could send him to hospice, or we could put in an LVAD,” a left ventricular heart device that helps the heart circulate blood.
Complicating the decision was Temple’s obesity. His body mass index, a measure of body fat, was 51, far above the threshold for obesity. Anything above 30 is considered obese.
Some hospitals decline to implant an LVAD in such obese patients, according to Timothy Robbins, director of the VAD program. But Einstein has developed an expertise in treating obese patients with an LVAD and even specializes in bariatric surgery for these patients so they can lose enough weight to potentially qualify for a heart transplant.
Einstein’s LVAD interdisciplinary team convened to discuss Temple’s case and decided to try to save his life. Temple had the LVAD implanted in July.
At Home and on the Mend
He was in the hospital and MossRehab for a month, then went home – in half the national average time for patient discharge. Once he’s strong enough, he’ll undergo bariatric surgery.
“I am on the upswing and trying to get better,” Temple says. “It’s a process. It takes time to heal. I am mobile, moving around, working to get better.”
Temple hopes to return to the job he loves, as a manager at 191 Presidential Boulevard, a luxury condominium building in Bala Cynwyd.
“I am a people person and I love doing what I do and helping residents. They show the love back,” he says. “I owe a lot of my experience and wisdom to them. They taught me so much about quality of life, and helped me be what I am today.”
Temple also looks forward to seeing his musically talented daughter graduate from college; she’s interrupted her education to take care of him. His two sons and daughter live with him.
“That’s why my quality of life is important; at least it gives them a chance to make it,” he says. After hovering near death, Sean Temple now has the chance of having his health restored and his life returned to something he clearly values: stability.
Without Einstein, he says. “I might not be alive today.”