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The U.S. Navy recently honored HVC cardiologist Erica Spatz, MD, (center, holding award), for “above-and-beyond care” of Career Counselor First Class Petty Officer John Meehan (at Dr. Spatz’s right). Meehan’s wife, Jennifer (at Dr. Spatz’s left), joined Navy personnel and YNHH physicians, staff and leaders at a Jan. 27 award ceremony at the hospital.

U.S. Navy honors HVC cardiologist for diligence in diagnosing, treating sailor

Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist Erica Spatz, MD, thought she was going to a meeting.

But when she walked into a conference room at Yale New Haven Hospital the morning of Jan. 27, she was momentarily speechless. 

She was greeted with applause from YNHH physicians, staff and leaders, along with five U.S. Navy personnel in their dress blues. Among them was a familiar face: Career Counselor First Class Petty Officer John Meehan.

Meehan has been Dr. Spatz’s patient since 2021, when he came to the Heart and Vascular Center (HVC) at the hospital. The Southbury man had been recovering from severe COVID-19 and developed symptoms other physicians diagnosed as COVID-related anxiety. 

Dr. Spatz, director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Health Program at Yale School of Medicine, didn’t think anxiety was causing Meehan’s worsening symptoms. After a thorough exam, she suspected a rare condition called viral myocarditis – heart muscle inflammation that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. Severe myocarditis can cause blood clots, leading to stroke or heart attack.

Dr. Spatz ordered an MRI of Meehan’s heart and called experts all over the country and as far away as South Africa to confirm a diagnosis and treatment. Meehan has been recovering ever since, and is receiving additional treatment for other long COVID complications.

Meehan was so impressed by Dr. Spatz’s care, he brought it to the attention of his lieutenant, who notified his superiors. All agreed she should be recognized. So, on Jan. 27, Navy Lt. Matthew Bolton, regional supervisor/medical officer recruiter, presented Dr. Spatz with a framed letter thanking her for going above and beyond.

“Dr. Spatz was there to listen, recognize and … treat and diagnose me properly,” Meehan said at the award ceremony. “I’m forever grateful for her.” 

Dr. Spatz thanked Meehan and his wife, Jennifer, for teaching her about long COVID, and the effects it can have on people “struggling to have their symptoms validated.” She also thanked the Navy for supporting Meehan’s treatment, and the HVC team for providing exceptional care. 

“I’m deeply humbled on so many levels to receive this award,” she said.