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Steve Bertrand knew something had to give. Beginning in 2015, the veteran WGN Radio news anchor and host of “The Business Lunch” continually battled shortness of breath—a health challenge for anyone, but especially for a man who makes a living with his voice.
As the bouts gradually became more frequent and intense, Bertrand sought guidance from numerous specialists—including a pulmonologist and cardiologist. “I lost track of all of the tests,” said the 53-year-old Deerfield resident, whose condition remained unchanged.
Identifying the Right Expert
Struggling to find definitive answers, Bertrand stepped into the offices of NorthShore's Thoracic Surgery in the spring of 2016. His physician immediately ordered a pulmonary function test and found a restrictive disease and decreased lung volume. Subsequent ECG (electrocardiogram) and CT computed tomography) scans provided further insights into Bertrand’s unique plight.
The doctors confirmed that Bertrand’s shortness of breath and reduced heart function stemmed from a congenital chest wall deformity. Although Bertrand had corrective surgery at age 9 to address the issue, over the intervening four decades his ribs and sternum had grown abnormally, producing a sunken chest appearance.
A surgery called a modified Ravitch was suggested to him. In this complex reconstruction, Bertrand’s sternum—or breastbone—would be elevated and stabilized by an absorbable bar called a BioBridge. The procedure would relieve the pressure and restriction on Bertrand’s ribs and chest wall while promoting increased lung capacity.
“It had been clear to me my entire adult life that my first surgery didn’t last,” Bertrand recalled. “Still, it was a bit of a shock when I was told I might need surgery again. I had no idea my sternum was pressing into my heart.”
Journey to Wellness
Before heading into the four-hour reconstructive surgery on July 13, the ever-jovial Bertrand asked his doctor if he should make peace with his enemies. His physician said there was no need, though he stressed that the procedure was only the first step in a six- to 12-month journey to full recovery.
“My physician had a very calming approach, even when he let me know that recovery would be longer and tougher than I imagined,” Bertrand said. “He was very thorough and patient in explaining what was ahead of me, and he’s been right all along.”
From the surgical skill of his physician to the expertise of his Physician Assistant Alison Glinski, Bertrand has been generous with praise for his NorthShore care team. He also commended the compassionate nurses, the kindhearted foodservice staff and even the friendly orderly who wheeled him out of the hospital.
Just 10 days after the surgery, Bertrand was back on WGN Radio with his on-air colleagues Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder. He joked about getting sick again so he could return to NorthShore. “They made me feel like I was the only patient in the hospital.”
Today, Bertrand, who also runs a European group travel company, has settled back into his busy routine, much to the delight of loyal WGN listeners who sent him warm wishes and prayers before and after surgery.
“I could feel their support every step of the way,” he added. “Knowing all those good thoughts were out there definitely helped.”