A skilled cardiologist and his optimistic patient are beating the odds


In this article:

  • Dr. Devineni, a longtime and well-respected cardiologist at Providence emphasizes the importance of rehabilitation as an aspect of ongoing patient care.

  • Cardiac treatment includes everything from pacemakers to the implantation of a Watchman device to treat atrial fibrillation.

  • Laughter and a positive attitude can make a big difference.

Clayton Rodgers is a survivor. There’s no doubt about it. And if you asked this 84-year-old former Marine the biggest reason he’s survived four major heart attacks and eight complicated surgeries, he would give most of the credit to his cardiologist at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, Venkat Devineni, MD.

It was in 1998 that Rodgers suffered his first heart attack. That was the start of many health problems that would plague a man who described himself as “robust” when recalling his days as a transmission foreman for Southern California Edison, a job that kept him physically active.

During his first open-heart surgery, he had five bypasses, but it was not enough to stave off what would become years of heart problems. His condition worsened when he suffered his second heart attack in 2004 and then a third in 2005. It was at this point that Dr. Devineni, a longtime and well-respected cardiologist for Providence St. Mary, came into Rodgers’s life. After spending nearly a week in the ICU, “Dr. D,” as Rodgers refers to him, was assigned to his follow-up care. The doctor put him on a regimen of heart medications and enrolled him in a rehabilitation program.

“The important thing about treating cardiac patients is that a lot of times doctors think once they put in a stent or do a bypass, their job is done. Actually, their work is just beginning. Yes, the patient has survived, but how do you get them back to living a full life? Rehabilitation is a very important aspect of their care,” explains Dr. Devineni.

The rehab plan restored Rodgers’s strength, and within six months the patient was asking for permission to build a brick wall. Rodgers was antsy to resume an active life, and Dr. Devineni gave him the go-ahead. Rodgers proceeded to build a 90-foot brick wall all by himself—something he says he needed to do to feel strong and vital again.

Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last long. During a routine visit the following year, Dr. Devineni found an artery that was 98% clogged and performed a procedure to address the issue. Fast-forward to 2013, and Rodgers suffered yet another heart attack.

Great teamwork leads to successful outcomes

Rodgers’s medical issues have continued with everything from pacemakers to the implantation of a Watchman device to treat atrial fibrillation. The successful Watchman procedure meant Rodgers didn’t have to take blood thinners anymore, and his risk for stroke was reduced significantly. Again, he credits Dr. Devineni for precisely diagnosing and treating whatever health problems he’s encountered.

The doctor is equally impressed with his patient. “Clayton has dealt with many complications and issues. Yet at each stage of his treatment, he’s displayed a positive attitude. He never gives up. Instead, he’s always looking to solve the problem and move on. This attitude has been a huge factor in how well he’s done overall,” says Dr. Devineni.

This past March, Rodgers underwent yet another procedure when the doctor replaced his pacemaker. Every day, Rodgers is mindful of the tremendous impact Dr. Devineni has had on his life.

“I’ll never be able to move away from the High Desert area,” says Rodgers, “because I would never be able to replace him.”

A sense of humor is helpful

So how is Rodgers feeling these days? “From the neck up, I feel like a 35-year-old. From the neck down, I feel like a 1936 Ford that’s had every part replaced,” he explains with a laugh, referencing the year of his birth. “But even with all the new parts, I realize I’m still a 1936 Ford.”

It’s clear this man, who has endured so much trauma, has not lost his sense of humor. In fact, Rodgers remarks that humor is one of the things he appreciates most about Dr. Devineni. “We are always joking about something,” he says. “We have a great rapport.”

Dr. Devineni concurs, saying, “Rather than a doctor’s appointment, it’s more like two buddies having a great laugh. That’s what his visits with me feel like.”

Despite the physical toll on Rodgers’s body through the years, his mind is still razor sharp. As he puts it, “I’m not a bit dumber than I ever was.” Truly, for this brave survivor, laughter is the best medicine.

Find A Doctor

If you or someone you love needs cardiac support you can find more information at https://www.providence.org/services/heart-and-vascular

or you can find a compassionate expert through our provider directory.

Related Resources

The future of cardiovascular care

Heart health glossary: Here are the terms you should know

How Howard White got a second heart

The Impella pump: A small device with a big impact for heart patients

Matters of the Heart

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

More Content by Providence Heart & Vascular Team
Previous Article
Teens make a difference with mental health through Work2BeWell
Teens make a difference with mental health through Work2BeWell

Teens make a difference with mental health through Work2BeWell

Next Article
Cat Zingano’s 5 health tips for 2022
Cat Zingano’s 5 health tips for 2022

Bellator fighter Cat Zingano shares tips for how everyone can have a healthier new year.