Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some Shocking News....

Eldy has been feeling really really tired lately....although he's been playing golf two to three times a week, the rest of the time he's been feeling exhausted. He's been taking way too many naps in his recliner lately. He's also had a few episodes of major heartburn, a little bit of chest pain. (Sparky told him to get it checked out but he didn't feel it was serious enough and the times that he had it were very few and far between up till now). His cholesterol is very good, there is nothing elevated there. But we noticed in the last six months in addition to his fatigue levels, that his blood pressure had been climbing a little bit. He has been complaining of shortness of breath off and on over the last two years. He has had yearly checkups but nothing stood out as alarming to doctors that he saw. He always attributed that to "white coat syndrome" because he gets nervous when visiting the doctor. He went to his family doctor, and after looking at different possibilities--dehydration and a few other things, his family doctor suggested that he see a cardiologist.  He was given blood pressure medicine to help regulate the pressure for the time being. Heart disease runs majorly in his family. One brother had six bypasses, and two heart attacks after that, a sister had a stent put in. There definitely seems to be a structural heart disease genetic component in Eldy's family.

There are several different types of stress tests. Many people are familiar with the treadmill/exercise stress test. Depending on your age and physical fitness, the doctors can do different types. The doctor did not do the treadmill one, but one of the others instead for Eldy.
  • Dobutamine or Adenosine Stress Test: This test is used in people who are unable to exercise. A drug is given to make the heart respond as if the person were exercising. This way the doctor can still determine how the heart responds to stress, but no exercise is required.
  • Stress echocardiogram: An echocardiogram (often called "echo") is a graphic outline of the heart's movement. A stress echo can accurately visualize the motion of the heart's walls and pumping action when the heart is stressed; it may reveal a lack of blood flow that isn't always apparent on other heart tests.
  • Nuclear stress test: This test helps to determine which parts of the heart are healthy and function normally and which are not. A small amount of radioactive substance is injected into the patient. Then the doctor uses a special camera to identify the rays emitted from the substance within the body; this produces clear pictures of the heart tissue on a monitor. These pictures are done both at rest and after exercise. Using this technique, areas of the heart that have a decreased blood supply can be detected.
The doctor found an abnormality in one of his chambers. The doctor said he couldn't tell from the test whether it was major or minor, it was somewhat hidden. He said that sometimes medication could take care of it or sometimes it necessitates surgery, so he scheduled an angioplasty this past week to get a better idea of what we were looking at. We were expecting a stent possibility, a minor blockage, something like that.

After the angioplasty, the doctor told Eldy he had blockages all over the place. He said that Eldy was looking at SIX bypasses. We were shocked! The surprising part of all this is that they did NOT put him in the hospital immediately, but that a couple of days have gone by since we found this out. We are thinking that although six bypasses is severe, that perhaps the degree of blockages are not severe enough to warrant immediate hospitalization. The report is currently being sent to the surgeon and on Monday, we should be hearing when the surgery is going to take place. It should be sometime this coming week....

Before anybody says that Eldy should be in the hospital NOW and not waiting, (which is the hard part), know that this area has many, many qualified cardiologists and surgeons. If the cardiologist felt that it was not necessary for him to be admitted immediately, we trusted that decision. The cardiologist has excellent credentials. What we didn't realize is that the cardiologist does not perform open heart surgery. It will be done by a cardiothoracic surgeon. The open heart surgery is going to happen this week so we know that he's going to be well taken care of and soon. He is resting and taking it easy till that happens.

If anybody has experience with bypass surgery and what recovery is like, we'd be grateful to hear. We're just not sure how much assistance will be needed at home. We're sure we will be much better informed after hearing from the surgeon's office on Monday. Sparky will do her best to be a good Nurse Sparks.

We will keep everybody informed as to his progress and recovery.....Thanks for still being here to read us!


  1. That is shocking. Best wishes for a complete recovery from surgery.

  2. We'll be keeping Eldy in our prayers for a full and speedy recovery.

    It's about time.

  3. My best wishes go out to both of you. I've had open heart surgery, but I was 19 at the time and things have really improved since then. The one good thing I always thought was that I KNOW my heart is good now, because it's been checked in "person." I'll be looking forward to some positive updates. :)

  4. Oh Jeannie I'm so sorry to hear this. It must be very scary. David has two blockages and they were in places they felt they couldn't stent but with his cancer problems, they don't want to do open heart either since his immune system is so compromised. So he walks a double tight rope. We send all the good wishes and strength we have to you both.

  5. Both parents had bypass surgery, probably 25 years ago, the thing we all learned is do the cardiac exercises that the doc wants you to do and if they recommend any special diet, like limit your salt, follow them. It will make recovery much faster and easier. Mother wouldn't exercise or give up her fat and salt and her heart condition became much more severe than Dad, Best wishes for your surgery,

  6. Best wishes for a successful surgery and fast recovery! We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

  7. Jeannie, Please tell Eldy to stop scaring you like that. Just kidding. We hope his surgeries go well and he'll feel like a 20-year-old again. It's really good he got those tests! Our thoughts are with you both.

  8. You have given some very good information in this post. This is something we all can learn from since Eldy had check ups and appeared to be healthy. I guess the angioplasty is really the best way for them to know for sure. My Mom had a stent about 3-4 years ago when she was over 80. She did fine but the cardiologist told her to make sure to take Plavix/blood thinner every day for a year and do not let anyone take her off of it for any reason. Not sure if Eldy will be on Plavix or not, but that may be good advice. Al's dad had a 4-5 bypass many years ago and as I recall he did quite well after he left the hospital. While he was still in the hospital he started coughing and popped his stitches out which delayed his release from the hospital. That was years ago so I'm sure things have changed for the better since then.

  9. I've had first hand experience being in your shoes - twice. Jim has had two by pass surgeries. The first in 1995 and the second in 2007. I think the most important thing to remember that this is actually going to be harder on you then on Eldy because he will be on good meds and won't remember most of it. But you will. They have made such progress with heart surgery evens since Jim's second surgery that it always amazes me. Our friend had a five by-pass done last October and he did fantastic. Just be sure to listen to what the doctor says and do everything he says. We had home health for a couple of weeks after surgery mainly because I was working and needed some help. Walking is very important. He will start feeling much better in about two weeks but complete recovery is about a year down the road. Only because he will be tired and not able to do as much as he thinks he should for awhile. No lifting for however long the doctor says. No driving for about six weeks. For both Jim and our friend, the part that seems to hurt the most is where they take the vein out of the leg to use for the by-pass. The sternum hurts for awhile because they have to cut it open to get to the heart. But the leg seems to be the problem. But even with his second surgery, things went really well and he felt better because blood was finally able to flow throughout his body. It is so worth it.

  10. Yikes! Hopefully everything turns out very good and this becomes a faint memory...

  11. Our thoughts are with you and Eldy. I guess it is a good thing you are in a permanent location and not traveling from state to state.

  12. I was thinking the same as Merikay, good thing this happened now and not a few years ago when you were on the road. I don't know anyone personally that has had this surgery. The only thing that I thought is good thing he had some symptoms so he got things checked out! Watching for updates on FB, and praying for both of you!

  13. You are going through the worst of it right now...the waiting. Look at this as an awakening. Rich had open heart surgery in January 1981--he lived for another 24 years and was very healthy--his death was not related to his bypass surgery. I think we had hundreds of calls in the years that followed Rich's bypass from very frightened people, and his answer was always, "Waiting is the worst of it." Pain control is much better, now, so that people can get back to their lives much sooner.

    We knew no one who had had the operation--it was in the "dark ages". We were young and we were scared. We had no idea what we were facing. So much has changed since then, of course. Rich was home in 6 days and because of the cold weather we mall walked every morning, together. His recovery was remarkable. I don't remember how long it was before he left me in the dust and took up running and he ran a 10K race every Saturday. I went to watch them all.

    My daughter is an anesthetist and on the transplant and bypass team at Emory/St. Joseph's hospital in Atlanta. She says recovery time is much shorter and quicker even in the ten years since she's been on the heart team. I think they feel that it's not only a wake up call, but a bullet dodged. My daughter would tell you to keep up the exercise and stick to a heart healthy diet.

    I wish you good luck. You should reach out for a hand to hold or even a support group if you feel you need one. Hoping everything goes very smoothly, including the recovery. Expect surgical pain, of course, but that goes away and Elby will feel so much better. One thing that stuck in my mind was one of the first things Rich said to me after surgery, "This may sound strange, but I feel as though I'm more alert. I didn't realize that my brain was foggy." The problem was found in a routine exam taking a stress test because he was approaching 40. Again, wishing you the best.

    1. Thank you for a very thoughtful, encouraging response...