Luther Simmons' story

Luther Simmons

Luther Simmons

Decades of work in the shipyards of Newport News and Portsmouth, some of it operating machinery and some of it in management, had mentally and physically prepared Luther "Sam" Simmons for just about anything. But what he wasn't ready for as he did lawn work that fall day at his Smithfield home, was the incredible pain he suddenly felt in his chest and abdomen.

The EMTs recognized the seriousness of the situation and decided to take me to Riverside. What I had was an aortic dissection, a fairly uncommon and life-threatening condition involving a tear in the major artery carrying blood out of my heart. And I had the worst type. As soon as the dissection was positively diagnosed, cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, Steven Scott, M.D. performed a complex procedure that repaired the damage. Along with his surgical skills, he and the entire care team were very responsive and thorough when it came to explaining everything that was going on to my family. All of the people I encountered at Riverside were especially encouraging and supportive, which I really needed to get through.

As it turns out, I also had a brain tumor that was diagnosed when I got to the hospital. So I had neurosurgery at Riverside not long after the heart surgery and I'm continuing radiation right now. In a sense, the problem with my heart is the reason why the brain tumor is being effectively treated, so I can find a silver lining even in that difficult situation. All in all, the road to recovery hasn't been smooth and straight, but I'm making progress now every day and it's a reminder that there's still more on this earth for me to do.

Patient's first-hand account has been minimally edited for clarity and to explain medical terminology.