By David Thompson
This story, my story, began one year ago.
I had not had a heart attack or any serious symptoms that would indicate a heart condition. I had lost 23 pounds over six months and had walked over 400,000 steps in the five weeks preceding my diagnosis. My level of business travel had remained high. My only symptom was occasional shortness of breath when taking a short walk. There would also be other occasions of shortness of breath as I zipped around doing my usual activities. This I ignored.
My diagnosis was nothing short of a miracle because I only learned that shortness of breath could be a symptom of a more serious condition by meeting and talking with someone on a business trip. This led me to schedule an appointment with an interventional cardiologist. I had a consult and my doctor recommended an immediate cardiac stress test. This is the treadmill with leads attached to you. This was no big deal to me. I have had these since I was 42, the age that my mom’s dad passed away from a massive heart attack, so I knew that we had “history.”
Wouldn’t you know it, I failed! The first time in 16 years, I failed. I lasted 4 minutes. The doctor explained that I definitely had blockages and the only definitive diagnostic tool was to have a cardiac catheterization. He said that there was the possibility of me receiving a stent and that I would be back home for dinner. I had five blockages, which I did not learn about until a week after my surgery. The five were 100-, 100-, 90-, 90- and 45-percent blockages. All of this would lead to a quadruple heart bypass.
A year ago, I was at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute in Falls Church, a leading hospital for heart surgery. I was calm, which I attribute to Army training. My poor family, on the other hand, was sick with worry. My wife and I were told confidently by the surgeon, “No worries: we’ve got this,” as I was about to be taken to the operating room.
The surgeon told my wife that the surgery would take 3 1/2 hours. My cavalier comment, when asked if I was ready, was “Bring it on!”
My entourage in the waiting room numbered 14 family members and dear friends. They brought sandwiches, Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes, hugs, kisses and prayers. The surgery lasted 7 hours. For any of you that have waited for a loved one during surgery, that was an eternity. There is “a board” in the waiting room that has coded numbers for your family to track your progress. One by one, other patient’s codes dropped off, indicating that they were in recovery, but not mine. I had gone back at 11 a.m. and now it was nearly 7 p.m. Finally, it was done.
A few Mondays ago, I was sitting quietly, having a cup of coffee by myself and it struck me! I realized that I am blessed in so many ways. I announce to the world that I now have a second birthday, July 3, 2018. I was 57, and I was new. It marked the beginning of another shot at this thing called life, and the adventure continues. My doctors still look at me in awe because I survived what I had been overlooking.
Editor’s note: Pete Hypes’ column is on a two-week hiatus. Part 2 of Thompson’s column will be published next week. Thompson lives in Lansdowne and is a 1978 graduate of Thomas Dale High School.