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Franciscan Got Me on the Mountain Again: Patient Stories

World-class heart care, close to home

University Place resident and avid hiker, Jeff Bonnell, had been living with a leaky heart valve for over a decade. But, when climbing the football stadium bleachers left him short of breath, he knew something wasn’t right — and his physicians agreed. It was time to find a surgeon. After attending one of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s heart health talks Jeff got a thumbs-up from his cardiologist to seek surgical care with one of the Northwest’s most skilled heart surgeons, Craig Hampton, MD with Franciscan Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates at St. Joseph. Dr. Hampton confirmed Jeff needed his mitral valve repaired. “I was ecstatic to find out I was a candidate for minimally invasive heart surgery,” said Jeff. Minimally invasive, or small incision, heart surgery offers significant benefits over traditional open heart surgery, including a smaller scar, less blood loss, less time at the hospital and a faster recovery.


Dr. Hampton performed the procedure close to Jeff’s home at the Franciscan Heart Center in Tacoma. With just a four-inch incision between his right ribs, Jeff was out of bed within a day of surgery, and went home from the hospital within three. His first night home, Jeff developed a slight case of atrial fibrillation, a common side effect of his surgery. The next day he visited the clinic where he was assessed and prescribed a medication to control it. “After the first week I was walking around my cul-de-sac,” said Jeff.

Jeff used the Cardiac Rehabilitation services at the Franciscan Heart Center for several months to strengthen his heart and rebuild stamina. After that, Jeff hit the hiking trails and hasn’t looked back. “Franciscan got me on the mountain again,” Jeff said while showing off a photo of his trek to Paradise Lodge at Mt. Rainier. “I have never felt better!”

Find out if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive heart surgery. Call Virginia Mason Franciscan Health at 253-426-6700 or learn more about minimally invasive heart surgery.