Thankful for Miracles
Married Doctor Duo Team Up to Help Patient
Jessica Morgan, 37, has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season: A new baby daughter and another chance at life.
She gives credit for both of those blessings to NorthBay Health’s team of experts — in particular a husband-and-wife physician duo who cared for her through her worst and best moments.
Jessica came to the NorthBay Health VacaValley Hospital Emergency Department in July of 2021 with a complaint of pain in her neck and shoulder that had been persistent for several days. Testing soon confirmed the problem: Jessica was having a heart attack.
Transported to NorthBay Medical Center, Jessica was taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where interventional cardiologist Mark Villalon, M.D., was able to do an angiogram of her heart and found a number of blockages in her cardiac arteries.
She needed surgery to bypass the blockages.
Jessica knew exactly how serious her situation was when she saw cardiothoracic surgeon Shea Pribyl, D.O, come into the room. She’d been there a year and a half before, when her father had triple bypass surgery with Dr. Pribyl.
Now, as she learned she would also need a triple bypass, she was stunned. “When we talk about coronary disease, we talk about two factors that play the biggest part. Number one, when your birthday is and number two, who your parents are,” said Dr. Pribyl in a video project that featured Jessica and other NorthBay Heart & Vascular patients.
“He told me it was pretty serious and that they were taking me in right then,” Jessica said. But understanding the cause of her health issue and the skill of her care team didn’t erase her fear. “I was scared,” she said. Dr. Villalon helped ease her concerns.
“From the moment I met him, I could tell I was in good hands,” she said. “He was so caring and brought a lot
of comfort and he understood what I was feeling and made sure I knew I was safe and cared for.”
She came through the surgery with flying colors. “She is on the younger end of the spectrum for heart attacks, but we certainly do see people with heart disease at a younger age for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Villalon. “Thankfully she got the treatment she needed.”
But her life would change again in 2023. And this time, it was another Dr. Villalon — OB/Gyn Rachel Villalon, M.D. — who helped with her life-changing event: The birth of her second child, a daughter she named Katherine.
“Her care was a little more complicated because of the cardiac issues she had a couple of years before,” Dr. Rachel Villalon explained. “But Jessica was lucky that she had been able to get her heart treated prior to her pregnancy. If that had not been the case, it would have been a much more risky pregnancy and could have risked her life and the life of her and baby.”
For Jessica, having Drs. Villalon was a bonus.
“It was great,” she said. “It made my pregnancy go by faster and easier because they could talk to each other and not have to wait for some other doctor.”
She adds that she is so grateful for the care she received.
“I want to thank NorthBay for all they did for me. I know without their care, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have my daughter,” she said. “I feel good.”