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From Patient Care to Pup Care: Huntsville Hospital CRNP’s Kind Gesture Touches Hearts

May 2, 2024 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Rob Presson, a certified registered nurse practitioner with the Heart Center at Huntsville Hospital, and his wife, Amanda, cuddle with Pebbles, an 11-year-old Yorkshire Terrier they are fostering while her dog mom awaits a lifesaving heart procedure.

They say a nurse’s love knows no bounds. Whether it’s offering a comforting smile, holding a hand in a difficult moment or listening attentively to concerns, nurses have a remarkable way of making people feel seen and cared for.

Rob Presson, who joined the Huntsville Hospital family 11 years ago, understands the unique caretaking role nurses play all too well. A certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) for the Heart Center, Presson recently went beyond the call of duty to help a patient in need.

In April, Presson learned that a woman hospitalized for heart-related fainting had considered not staying for a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a procedure that would surely save her life. The reason? There was no one but her available to care for Pebbles, her beloved Yorkshire Terrier.

After speaking with colleague and fellow CRNP Carissa Flippo, Presson volunteered to bring the patient’s dog home if she would stay and allow HH to care for her. Knowing his wife, Amanda, loves animals, Presson hoped the patient, who has no family, would accept his offer so she could get the help she needs.

‘Praying for help’

Thankfully, she did. Now in a rehabilitation facility prepping for the TAVR procedure, the patient can rest easy knowing her treasured pup is in good hands with Presson, who has been caring for the dog several weeks.

“The patient was very emotional,” he said of the moment she learned he would keep Pebbles. “She said she has been praying for help for a long time.”

Pebbles is about 11 years old, partially blind and diabetic. Despite needing insulin shots twice a day, Presson said the animal is easy to care for and gets along great with his other dog, a Husky.

Since the dog has been in his care, Presson has traveled with Pebbles to see the patient, both at the hospital and the rehab facility where she is preparing for TAVR.

“This dog is the only family this lady has,” he said. “She is very, very attached to this dog and really treats her like her child. I would even venture to say she probably takes better care of Pebbles than she does herself.”

What is TAVR?

TAVR is a minimally invasive heart procedure in which a new valve is inserted without removing the old, damaged valve or opening a person’s chest. The new valve is then placed inside the diseased valve, significantly increasing a patient’s life expectancy and quality of life.

The first TAVR at Huntsville Hospital was completed on Aug. 12, 2014. Since then, the program has evolved into a multi-disciplinary Structural Heart Team comprised of staff from the Cardiac Cath Lab, Cardiovascular OR, Cardiac Short Stay and HH Heart Center, as well as cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, valve program coordinators, advanced practice providers, anesthesiologists and echocardiography technologists.

Above and beyond

Dr. Gautam Reddy, MD, FACC, is the structural cardiologist who will perform the patient’s TAVR procedure at Huntsville Hospital. Dr. Abdul W. Hritani, MD, is the woman’s general cardiologist.

Praising the efforts of Presson, Flippo, and the rest of the Heart Center team, Dr. Reddy said he looks forward to completing the woman’s TAVR procedure and getting her on the road to recovery.

“I am continually inspired by the dedication and compassion of our team,” he said. “Their commitment to going above and beyond to support our patients is a testament to the values we hold dear.”