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I Needed a Triple Heart Bypass: A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Triple Heart Bypass Heart Operation

Bob is a fit and healthy man in his mid-60s who walks for at least 5 miles every other day and lives life to the full. He has never smoked, generally looked after himself for most of his life and has had very little illness apart from the odd cold. “It was a complete shock last year when, after I had a regular check up with my GP, I was sent for urgent further tests. I am on one of these programs where you just get a health check every year and I was used to sailing out after being told I was fine,” says Bob.

In his appointment last year, everything was not fine and Bob was referred to the cardiac unit of his local hospital for tests as the GP suspected that his heart was not working at its best. “I had been having a bit of pain just under my ribs, but I put that down to indigestion. I also told him that I did get breathless sometimes, but I really felt fine. He wasn’t convinced,” remembers Bob.

Hospital Tests

The tests done in the cardiac unit were completed over a course of two days and then there was more bad news. “I sat down in the consultant’s office and he showed me a picture of my heart. I had been given tests in which a dye was injected into my veins to show if the blood vessels leading to my heart were OK. I had three blocked coronary arteries – one was 100% blocked and the other two were 70% and 65%. I knew this meant I was in trouble,” says Bob.

The consultant recommended that Bob be booked in for a triple heart bypass as soon as possible and there was a significant danger that the blocked arteries would become worse and that Bob would suffer a heart attack as the blood supply to his heart muscle was cut off. “He explained that in the triple bypass, blood vessels from my legs would be taken out and used to replace the blocked blood vessels that were leading to my heart. To me, this sounded like an impossible job, but he reassured me that it was quite a routine operation.”

Considering Surgery

Bob went home, his first instinct to ignore what was happening. But his thoughts turned to his two children, both married and with their own young families. “It wasn’t so much the thought of death that worried me – everybody dies eventually – it was that I would miss my grandchildren growing up. Worse still, if I had a heart attack and didn’t die but just became an invalid, I would be a great burden to them,” explains Bob.

That weekend he took the bull by the horns and invited both of his children and their partners over for Sunday lunch and told them everything. There were many tears but the family said they would support Bob through the operation and see him well again.

The Operation

“The day of the operation is a bit of a blur now. I remember being terrified but then I remember the pain in my legs when they got me up afterwards. That was worse than the pain from the incisions in my chest!” Bob’s daughter and son were at the hospital constantly and were quite assertive in insisting that Bob be allowed home to his daughter’s house as soon as possible. “Even I was surprised to be out again 3 days after the surgery but Elaine was convinced that being in hospital, with all the superbugs, was more of a risk to me than something happening at her home.”

Elaine took two weeks leave from work, so the family had to forgo a holiday last year, but she feels it was worth it. “When I went to the hospital to see dad just after the operation, he really looked helpless and I have heard such horror stories of hospital infections. When we got him home he had to rest but he also had to resume his walking and exercise as soon as possible and I think it helped to be in comfortable surroundings with his grandchildren around to make him laugh,” says Elaine.

No Regrets

“Six months on, I really feel a different man. I was walking and doing things but I was getting tired and breathless, more so than I even admitted to myself. Everything is so much easier now and I have even lost weight from eating more healthy food. Elaine keeps me in line now, so no more cakes or biscuits. I am looking forward to enjoying quite a few more years and to definitely seeing my grandchildren get married when the time comes!”

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