Janet Jacobs, American-Statesman Staff
DATE: 3-25-2002
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman

In the heart-doctor’s version of the Oscars, Dr. William F. Kessler won the Cardiac Care Provider of the Year award Saturday night at the 2002 Heart Ball, sponsored by the American Heart Association, Capital Area.

“It’s a very, very nice thing,” the heart surgeon said Sunday. “One of the nicest things that’s happened to me since I’ve been in practice.”

Kessler was nominated by patient Rufus “Nelson” Hood, 70, who also presented the award.

Before moving to Austin two years ago, Hood began suffering from congestive heart failure combined with a heart aneurysm. “I retired early, simply because I was just worn out,” he said. “I’d had a heart attack several years ago and didn’t realize it. It damaged my heart and weakened the muscle. Instead of pushing blood out of my heart, it was just pushing it into that weakened area.”

Hood’s problems reached a crisis in September 2000. He went to the emergency room with chest pain and became Kessler’s patient. Kessler performed a quadruple bypass and fixed the aneurysm in one surgery, a procedure that wasn’t available when Hood first was diagnosed. Kessler also was the surgeon for two patients who became friends while they waited for heart transplants at Seton Medical Center, Bobby Hunter of Bastrop and Jake Petty, now of Hillsboro.

The two men have been featured in the Austin American-Statesman several times, most recently a week ago. The staff at Seton and in Kessler’s office were helpful and caring and eased his recovery, Hood said. Heart patients often show great appreciation to “the person who’s opened them up and operated on them,” Kessler said. “You really become a part of their life from that point on.”