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Published on February 14, 2013

38-year-old is 1,000th heart-surgery patient at Community Hospital

Contact: Brenda Moore (831) 625-4544
Communication and Marketing: (831) 625-4505

MONTEREY, Calif. — Ezequiel Rodriguez-Chavez and his wife are spending Valentine’s Day at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula — happily.

Ezequiel Rodriguez-Chavez with his wife, Xochil, and son, Ezequiel.

Ezequiel Rodriguez-Chavez with his wife, Xochil, and son, Ezequiel,
five days after becoming the 1,000th heart-surgery patient at
Community Hospital.

The 38-year-old Seaside man underwent the 1,000th heart surgery at Community Hospital last week, repairing a birth defect that, untreated for a lifetime, left his heart barely pumping.

“We’ll be here,” his wife, Xochil (pronounced Zo-she) said of the hospital holiday. “But he’s got a brand-new heart. That’s our Valentine’s gift.”

Rodriguez-Chavez actually got a new valve and an aortic graft in an operation by cardiothoracic surgeon Gregory Spowart.

The couple, accompanied by their 2 1/2 –year-old son, Ezequiel, thanked Spowart and the rest of their care team during an emotional meeting Wednesday — the 6th anniversary of the founding of Community Hospital’s heart surgery program and the Tyler Heart Institute.

“This hospital is a miracle,” Xochil Rodriguez said through tears. “I don’t know how to thank you guys…We don’t have to worry about him — he’s new again.”

Rodriguez-Chavez learned at age 18 that he had a hole in one of his heart valves, but he lived with it — until it nearly killed him. He came to Community Hospital’s Emergency department on February 3, feverish, short of breath, and fearing he had pneumonia. Doctors found that his heart was enlarged and weakened to the point that it was pumping at only 25 percent of normal — “a burned out heart,” Spowart said. “It was really surprising he did as well as he did for so long.”

Rodriguez-Chavez, who works as a mechanic in Gilroy, is expected to go home in a couple of days and his heart function should improve over the next six months to a year, Spowart says.

“One of the good things about the human body is its resiliency,” Spowart says. “There’s every reason to be hopeful.”


Ezequiel Rodriguez-Chavez with his surgeon, Dr. Gregory Spowart, and cardiologist Richard Gray.

Ezequiel Rodriguez-Chavez with his surgeon, Dr. Gregory Spowart,
and cardiologist Richard Gray, medical director of Tyler Heart

SURGEONS: The open-heart surgery program launched under the direction of renowned surgeon Dr. Vincent Gaudiani, who was joined in 2009 by veteran surgeon Dr. Gregory Spowart.

LEADERSHIP: Cardiologist Richard Gray became Tyler Heart Institute (THI) medical director in 2009. Debbie Sober, RN, MSN, is interim director of Tyler Heart Institute.

1,000th SURGERY: On Friday, February 8, the 1,000th open-heart surgery was performed on Ezequiel Rodriguez-Chavez, 38. The first open-heart surgery patients, on February 13, 2007, were Joe Flores and Richard Elster, both of whom delayed procedures to have them done at Community Hospital.

RESULTS: The open-heart surgery program has achieved excellent results since inception:
•    Operative mortality rates from 0 to 1.4 percent, compared with the national figures of 1.6 to 6.5 percent, depending on procedure
•    Serious infection rates from 0 to 2.1 percent, compared with national rates of 1.1 to 2.9 percent, depending on procedure
•    Stroke rates from 0 to 1.4 percent, compared with national rates of 0 to 2.7 percent

AWARDS: Healthgrades has named Community Hospital one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Surgery two years in a row and has awarded it five stars, the most possible, for valve surgery four years in a row. Healthgrades evaluates hospitals solely on clinical outcomes, with the aim of helping consumers understand, compare, and evaluate hospital performance. Blue Shield has recognized Community Hospital as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care, a designation based on rigorous evidence-based objective criteria, and input from expert doctors and medical organizations.

PHILANTHROPIC SUPPORT: Tyler Heart Institute was made possible in large part by a significant donation from Monterey Peninsula residents William and Susanne Tyler. THI is the umbrella for Community Hospital’s broad range of cardiovascular services, from heart-disease prevention education to cardiac rehabilitation after surgery, heart attack, or other heart event.


Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, established in 1934, has grown and evolved in direct response to the changing healthcare needs of the people it serves. It is a nonprofit healthcare provider with 207 staffed acute-care hospital beds and 28 skilled-nursing beds, delivering a continuum of care from birth to end of life, and every stage in between. It serves the Monterey Peninsula and surrounding communities through locations including the main hospital, outpatient facilities, satellite laboratories, a mental health clinic, a short-term skilled nursing facility, Hospice of the Central Coast, Peninsula Wellness Center, and business offices. Find more information about Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula at

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