Patient Experience Moments

Surviving Battles and Blockages – Cheshire Patient Norman VanCor

Rachel Croteau, MD and Norman VanCor

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Norman VanCor is writing a book about his experiences and ultimate survival. Last year, he had reason to pause and reflect on another triumph over death—one that crept up on him in such a way that he needed to be convinced he was in real danger.

Like many of us, VanCor has dealt with a number of health issues throughout his lifetime. Last fall, he visited his primary care provider, Rachel Croteau, MD, at Cheshire Medical Center, with what he thought were fairly familiar pulmonary symptoms. Croteau ordered some routine tests to explore his symptoms and ultimately recommended a nuclear stress test, which measures whether the blood flow to your heart muscle is normal or abnormal. VanCor resisted this path for some time as it can be an unpleasant experience especially for someone who already struggles with pulmonary function. However, Croteau persisted in her recommendation for VanCor to have the test.

Within days of receiving the results, his care team sent him up to DHMC for a heart catheterization, a procedure used to diagnose and treat certain cardiovascular conditions. As a result of that procedure, he was immediately referred to a cardiac surgeon and was told he had three very serious blockages in his aortas, necessitating a triple bypass because three coronary arteries were blocked and needed normal blood flow restored. VanCor shared that his D-H surgeon told him that without the bypass, it was very likely he would have suffered a massive heart attack by Christmas that could have been fatal.

The day after Christmas, VanCor was feeling so grateful for Croteau’s wisdom, professionalism and persistence, he made a financial donation in her honor to Cheshire’s Circle of Gratitude program for ultimately saving his life. The Circle of Gratitude program let patients make a donation in honor of a specific staff member who made a difference in their care. In VanCor’s words, “Dr. Croteau is an outstanding member of the medical team at Cheshire and a caring and compassionate human being.”

He also conveyed his gratitude for the swift and effective series of tests and procedures performed both at Cheshire and DHMC. While they may not have been pleasant ordeals, VanCor says he is glad he was convinced they were necessary. Everyone involved took care of him well and he is extremely thankful to be alive to share this experience and those in his upcoming book about the Vietnam War.