When Scott LeJeune started feeling fatigued, he thought he was just pushing himself too hard. The married father of five and owner of several Acadiana grocery and convenience stores had a busy schedule that always kept him on the go. When the tiredness worsened and he began experiencing shortness of breath, LeJeune knew something else was wrong.
In November 2021, LeJeune went to Our Lady of Lourdes Heart Hospital in Lafayette for tests. He didn’t return home for 22 days.
“I got the news that I needed a bypass. I had blockage and damage to my heart that may have been from a heart attack I had at some point,” LeJeune said. “I just kept thinking this was something that wasn’t supposed to happen to me, especially at 50 years old.”
LeJeune had always kept himself in shape and led an active lifestyle, even riding in rodeos at one point. His father underwent heart surgery about 20 years ago, creating a family history that made LeJeune more at risk for similar problems. Like LeJeune, many people with cardiac disease have symptoms that are so minor they often chalk them up to stress.
LeJeune’s situation was especially complex because doctors found a small portion of his heart had died and large portion was nonfunctional, or hibernating. Because of the damage, LeJeune had to undergo several days of testing and pre-operation procedures before his bypass. After the surgery, he remained at the hospital for recovery. It was one of the most trying times in LeJeune’s life, he said, but the Lourdes staff made it easier.
“The comfort and care the hospital gave to me and my family was unbelievable,” LeJeune said. “I never thought I could be in a situation like that and feel so at peace. Everyone – doctors, nurses, technicians, cleaning staff – was first-class every step of the way. I became more spiritual than I have ever been before, so I know God was with me, but the medical expertise and professionalism at Heart Hospital was incredible.”
The care team was led by Dr. Chance DeWitt, a Cardiovascular and Thoracic surgeon with Our Lady of Lourdes. LeJeune said he was consistently reassured by Dr. DeWitt’s confidence and how he explained every test and surgical step to him and his family.
“He actually gave me the option to look elsewhere and get another opinion, but I never once thought of it,” LeJeune said. “I knew he had the ability, the resources and the tools to give me exactly what I needed.”
Being involved in heart surgery has been a part of Dr. DeWitt’s life from a young age. Growing up in Alexandria, his mother was a cardiac nurse and introduced him to the medical field and her colleagues. He was observing in operating rooms by the time he was in high school. He has seen cardiac care evolve throughout his career. Open-heart surgery, Dr. DeWitt said, was rare until around 1970 and is now a common procedure. Valve repairs can sometimes be done by going through the groin rather than the chest.
“If Scott had come to me five years ago, I probably would have to had to tell him to go to a tertiary care center because we wouldn’t have had the capabilities here,” Dr. DeWitt said. “Today in Lafayette, with the devices we have, we can treat higher risk patients like Scott and keep them close to home.”
Not only did LeJeune undergo surgery, but his heart was so weak that doctors had to place a pump in his heart to decrease the workload of his weakened heart to prepare him for surgery and allow him to recover after surgery. Following surgery, LeJeune would sit up or walk briefly while the pump did much of his heart’s work, giving his body time to recover. A few days later, Dr. DeWitt began reducing the pump’s power, then later performed a minor procedure to remove it.
“The convenience of being able to do all of that right in Lafayette was unbelievable,” LeJeune said. “I live in Church Point. My mom and dad and sister live in Lafayette, so they were able to see me quite a bit. If I would have had to go to New Orleans or Houston, I don’t think I would have had such a comforting experience and I wouldn’t have had my family around me as much.”
Today, LeJeune is continuing his cardiac rehab, resuming life with his family and returning to light duty at work. For Dr. DeWitt, it’s a gratifying feeling to see someone in the prime of his life now thriving thanks to the care he received at Our Lady of Lourdes Heart Hospital.
Dr. DeWitt said, “I knew we could help Scott and get him back on his feet, and he and his family were mentally prepared for it. He was ready to get better and get back to his life. Once we started moving forward, we never looked back. It’s a true success story.”