Monday, June 29, 2009

An Unexpected Monday – Heart Bypass Surgery

This will be, I’m sorry to report, my last post for at least a few days. The reason is simple: on Monday morning (I’m writing this Sunday) I will be undergoing bypass surgery.

It started with a routine thalium stress test last Wednesday. When I had my annual check-up in February, my doctor suggested that, given that I’m over 50 and there is a history of heart disease in my family, a stress test would probably be a good idea. So, we scheduled it for the week after the U.S. Open—the first real break in my schedule.

I did well on the treadmill—went almost nine minutes before my heart rate got to 150—which surprised me because I’m not in great swimming shape right now and I’m more overweight than usual. The doctor said my swimming, even when not in great shape, was probably the reason for that.

The next day though he called—right after I’d worked out—and said there was a “spot,” on one of my arteries that might be a blockage. He wanted me to go in for an angiogram and said I might as well do it the next day since I had a busy week coming up with the PGA Tour in town at Congressional and the fact that I was supposed to move on Tuesday.

“It’s really no more of a big deal than a trip to the dentist,” he said.

Not exactly.

The angiogram showed “four to six,” blockages in my heart—one of them 100 percent. The doctor who did it said there was really no option other than bypass. I asked how could that be when I had not had a heart attack or even chest pains and my cholesterol level was 162.

He smiled. “First, you’ve been lucky,” he said. “Second, your heart is strong thanks to your swimming. It’s your arteries that are screwed up.”

After I got through freaking out I asked if it could be done right then and there. The surgeon came in and said, “look, my team and I have already done three today. Yours will take a little longer (four hours or so) because there are so many blockages. We’ll put you down for first thing Monday morning.

And so, I’m on the schedule for 7:30 Monday morning.

I am, of course, scared. I know these guys do this surgery all the time (three times on Friday) but the old saying goes that routine surgery is surgery performed on someone other than you. I know, having talked to others who have been through bypass that the recovery isn’t easy but you do come out on the other end feeling a lot better.

That’s what I want now—to come out on the other end.

Everyone is telling me I’m lucky because it was caught this way, not with a heart attack. My heart muscle is un-damaged. I am, besides the damn arteries, healthy so I should be able to get through the surgery okay and recover okay.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel too lucky Friday afternoon.

The weekend has been anxious and uplifting all at once. I want to get in and get this over with—obviously—but all the calls and e-mails and offers of help and support from friends has been amazing. You do find out a lot about yourself in a lot of ways at times of crisis and that’s been wonderful.

What I want right now is to be able to sit at this computer in a few days and rip David Frohnmayer again or celebrate something cool that happens this coming week in sports. Of course the first thing I want to do is wake up in the recovery room and get to hug my kids a little while later. Then I can begin to deal with what comes after that.

The doctor did say to me that once this is over I’ll need to consider a lifestyle change. I’m guessing he was talking about the four or five steaks a week and the tendency to steer into McDonald’s when I’m on the road. Okay, I get it. My question is this: does anyone know a bartender who makes a good, low-fat Margarita? God, I could use one right about now.

I’m going to ask my pals Terry Hanson and David Stewart who put the blog together every day to post something when they know I’m through the surgery. My hope is the news will be such that all of you will feel free to disagree with me vehemently again in the very near future.


Brandon said...

Sorry to hear that John...I hope its a piece of cake for you! Best of luck.

joemktg said...

Thank goodness for your swimming. Hope the recovery is fast and strong. And there's a lesson for the rest of the 50+ folks.

ACK said...


get well soon.

Rob said...

Will be sending positive thoughts in your direction. Hope everything goes well and you are on the mend soon.

Johnny said...

Best wishes for a successful surgery and speedy and complete recovery.

Jeff S said...

Good luck. take it easy. Hope to see you in a few months at a Ravens game.

Jack said...

You will be back in a Speedo in no time.

Scott Cranfill said...

John, I pray the surgery went well, and best wishes for a safe and speedy recovery.

jeff said...

All the best to you, John. Godspeed.

Rich Gonzalez said...

Very sorry to hear about that John but I'm glad you had the checkup and the appropriate medical actions are being taken. Be well.

Rick Bonnell said...

Bell well. Went through a minor height attack five years ago. As you said, you're lucky they found this the way they did. Drummer caught me up.

William Miller said...

I had a double by-pass seven years ago and, like you, my heart was strong due to working out and caught the condition before having a heart attack.

My advice is CHANGE YOUR DIET. My rule of thumb is IF IT TASTES GOOD, DON'T EAT IT! Eating is not as much fun but my arteries are in much better shape.

William Miller
Duke '60

brill said...

fein: isn't seven of eight overdoing it a bit. it shook doughty up. he says he's 57 and nearly 240 even though he swims. I'm 78 and 201 and I might sink. I am, however, seeing my cardiologist in the a.m. the captain's quote today: I'm mot leaving duke. I'll never leave duke until I leave coaching and I don't see the finish line yet. then he asked about you. I don't know what that means but thought you'd know. get well and come see us. gus sends his regards.

Rob Daniels said...

I'm glad they caught it sooner rather than later. On the bright side, if you're under the influence of sedatives, you can't possibly be subjected to Michael Jackson Coverage.

Dawn S. said...

Hi John,

Phil let me know about your surgery. Wishing you a speedy recovery, but make sure you listen to the medical staff!

Dawn S.
Lafayette Sports Medicine

Charles Pierce said...

Junior --
Stay strong. Prayers are with you.
No more hospitality room cake, though.

David Aldridge said...

John: didn't know how else to reach you, but as you are no doubt sleeping a lot today (my dad had a quadrup a few years ago) I don't think you'll be seeing this for a while. Get well--you do get well after one of these--and you'll be doing the 400 IM again in no time.