Marking A Significant Heart Milestone
I had another birthday Monday. But at my age, those aren’t major occasions. Besides, the date I paid more attention to this year fell in late January. It marked the 15th anniversary of my double bypass surgery. Something about heart trouble seems to bring out skeptics from every corner, doubting the medications you take or the efficacy of treatment.
I can’t remember who said it, but I never forgot the comment made soon after my operation: “That will only last for 10 years. You’ll have to have another one.”
Instantly, I thought, “No, I won’t! I don’t receive those words!”
Now, 15 years later, I wish I had never had another heart problem. Sadly, 20 months after bypass, I wound up needing a stent. The cardiologist found another blockage in my heart, on the side opposite the bypass.
The irony is this happened after I went through a healthy lifestyle program at the hospital where I had surgery. I dropped a little over 20 pounds, took to exercising four times a week, and felt great.
That going vegetarian and trying to eliminate sources of stress apparently didn’t do all that much made me wonder how effective those steps had been.
The year after my stent, I resumed eating fish and chicken. Not to tweak any vegans’ sensibilities, but because I felt so anemic. It wasn’t until I added back some solid protein to my diet that I regained my strength.
One thing I learned during this sojourn is that a little knowledge can be dangerous. Previously, I thought if my total cholesterol was under 200, I was in fine shape. But when I needed my first two heart stents in 2005, mine checked in at 123.
The stents came after I had had a physical nine months earlier, which I passed with flying colors, and other tests. But when I went for a stress test and the cardiologist shut down the treadmill a few minutes later, it became apparent something was seriously wrong.
Two weeks after the stents, I discussed this with my primary care doctor, who acknowledged no traditional tests had shown anything was amiss.
When I asked why, he smiled and replied, “Why do you think they call it practicing medicine?”
While you may think I’m downing doctors, I’m not. I take the medications they prescribe, listen to their advice, and pay attention to any warning signals from my body. That came in handy two years after the last of my three stents. It had gotten clogged and had to be replaced.
While I insisted something was amiss after suffering mysterious attacks of fatigue over a two-week period, I got the feeling that everyone thought it was all in my head.
Finally, I went to an urgent care facility. The doctor there told me to go to the emergency room at the hospital that handles most heart surgeries in our area.
Not only was I admitted, the hospital scheduled me for a heart cath the next morning. As with two previous procedures, they gave me a medication that kept me awake but not caring.
As I lay in the cath lab in a semi-comatose state, I heard my cardiologist say, “Yes, it’s 50% blocked.”
Raising my fist, I thought, “I told ya! I told ya!”
Guess even we amateurs sometimes get it right. But don’t misunderstand me. The doctors who have helped keep me alive rank at the top of my “Most Favored People” list.