On July 6, my 68 year father had a "mild" heart attack while driving back from a golf tournament. Since he was still 30 miles from home, he stopped at a Burger King where he rested until he felt better (about 30 minutes). He did not know that he had experienced a heart attack, although he did experience flu-like symptoms. He thought he was coming down with the flu since a couple of his golfing buddies had experienced the same sort of symptoms in the previous week. After resting, he continued his drive towards home. As he was passing the Air Force Academy, he decided to stop in at the base hospital (he is retired military) since he wasn't feeling quite right. Upon arrival, the hospital staff realized immediately that he had suffered a heart attack and he was admitted to the cardiac care unit. Since the Academy hospital does not do any cardiac surgery or procedures, he was kept at the Academy until he could be transported to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. This did not occur until the morning of Tuesday, July 9. Tuesday afternoon, the cardiac surgeon, Dr.. Glass supervised the cardio-catherization procedure to determine the extent of damage to the heart muscle and the amount of arterial blockage. Although there is a history of heart disease on my father's side of the family, we felt that my father's risk of a heart attack was extremely low. Prior to hip replacement surgery 11/95, he was an avid racquet ball player (3-4 times a week), typically walked 18 holes of golf 5 days per week, did not smoke or drink. Additionally, he passed a treadmill test just prior to the hip surgery. We were totally unprepared for the news from the catherization.
The cardio-catherization told us that although the heart attack had caused no damage to the heart muscle, three coronary arteries were 95% blocked. It was decided to do a triple by-pass the following day. At about 8:00 p.m. that night my father was experiencing chest pains, a sign that he was experiencing another heart attack. The surgeon on call, Dr. Joel Morris, who fortunately was also the chief of cardio-thoracic surgery, decided that the by-pass operation should be done immediately. They took my father to surgery at 9:30 p.m. on July 9. At about midnight Dr. Morris came out of surgery and informed us that once they opened the chest they found a thoracic aortic aneurysm that was approximately 6.5 cm. Because he did not want to risk rupturing the aneurysm and because the medical team was not prepared to deal with it (I still don't understand, with all the tests that were done, how the aneurysm could go undetected until they had opened up the chest cavity), he only did one bypass. Dr. Glass felt confident that the other two arteries could be successfully treated by balloon angioplasty. This was accomplished two days later, on July 11. After further tests to determine the exact size and location of the aneurysm, it was determined that Dr. Morris could repair it. Initially there was some discussion of sending my father to Houston to have the surgery performed. My father was released from the hospital on Saturday, July 13, with surgery to repair the aneurysm scheduled for the week of July 22. Unfortunately the incision from the operation became infected and the aneurysm repair was delayed until the infection was gone. This took about 4 weeks.
On August 22, Dr. Morris successfully repaired the aneurysm, which fortunately did not include valve replacement, and my father was released from the hospital just three days later. It has now been three months since my father underwent the surgery. He continues to do really well. He has started to play golf again and is finally getting his life back to normal. Our family has a lot to be thankful for. We were kept well informed by the hospital staff. Dr. Morris explained everything extremely well while remembering that his patient was a loved family member not just another medical chart. The entire staff in the CCU at Memorial Hospital was very understanding and comforting. I firmly believe that it was my father's excellent physical condition that enabled him to survive the initial heart attack and his extremely positive outlook that enabled him to recover so quickly from both of these major operations.