‘I was determined to survive for my family’

Dr. Govostis (left) and his family

Dr. Dean Govostis has been a vascular surgeon for more than 28 years. He says he’s never been hospitalized, never needed an IV and in fact, has never really been sick. That all changed … in a heartbeat, in August 2019.

“I was in my office by myself and I just didn’t feel right. I went to see a cardiologist the next day,” Dr. Govostis shared. He couldn’t have imagined that by the end of that day, he would be hospitalized and fighting for his life because doctors couldn’t stop his heart’s abnormal rhythm.

Dr. Govostis’s grandfather lived to be 102. His father, a general surgeon, lived to 95, and his mother lived to 92. And yet, here he was, at the age of 61 with a ventricular arrhythmia that his own expertise informed him, looked frighteningly bad.

“I could see my monitor and knew I was going to arrest at any minute,” Dr. Govostis explained. “All I could think about was I have four daughters and a young son who is only 8 years old. I couldn’t leave them without a dad or my wife without a husband.”

Doctors tried medication, but it didn’t help. An emergency balloon pump was placed in his aorta and he was transferred in the middle of the night to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, IL. That’s where he operates on cardiac and vascular patients nearly every day and where his colleagues are like his own family. Soon after, he needed emergency open heart bypass surgery. The operation went smoothly, but still his heart rhythm wouldn’t normalize.

“They had to shock me while I was awake. I coded three or four times over the next several days and I was on life support,” he said.

The only thing that could help Dr. Govostis was a heart transplant. On Sept. 16, a lifesaving donor heart finally became available. The transplant went well, but his journey back to health has been slow. He had to learn how to swallow and talk again. He is now doing physical therapy at his home. He knows how incredibly close he was to death. But he also knows he was in the one place that gave him the absolute best chance to survive.

“I don’t believe I would have lived if I was taken anywhere else,” he said of his entire care team at Advocate Christ. “I was never in doubt that these people could save me. From the nurses and the transplant team, to the surgeons … I knew before because I’ve seen it. But now I know because I’ve experienced it. They’re amazing.”

Dr. Govostis knows firsthand the research and technology that’s required to provide critical heart patients with the best care possible. That’s why he encourages you to attend this year’s First Look for Charity event on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2020.

First Look for Charity and the Chicago Auto Show are presented by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, representing the new-car dealers of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. First Look for Charity benefits Advocate Health Care and 17 other local charities. Advocate’s 2020 beneficiary is Advocate Heart Institute, which includes Advocate Children’s Heart Institute for pediatric and adolescent patients. Purchase tickets here.