When 3rd heart cath test showed 75% blockage in left main artery,
Bob Bourdon knew the family genes had caught up with him....
...and at 57, on the counsel of his physician, Bob agreed open heart surgery was the best option. His grandfather on his mother’s side had heart disease. His father had open heart surgery at 54, and his three brothers all have heart disease. "I had no heart muscle damage, and I decided, ‘Why wait for the heart attack?’"
Cardiovascular surgeon Robert Holmes, M.D., performed a triple coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), opening up three areas in Bob’s left main artery, all substantially blocked by cholesterol build-up. Cholesterol is a fat, waxy-like substance that can adhere to sticky blood platelets and narrow artery walls. Veins are used, generally from the leg, as a "bridge" around the blocked artery. The bypass graft allows blood to flow freely to the heart. The surgery went smoothly, and Bob was home on the fourth day after surgery.
He did not expect the heart event that occurred two weeks post-surgery. One of every 1,000 heart surgery patients experience fluid build-up around the heart and lungs. An echocardiogram confirmed Bob had nearly a quart of fluid around his heart.
Back to the surgical suite for a "pericardial window": Dr. Holmes made an opening in Bob’s pericardium (sacs that surround the heart and its blood vessels). The fluid is drained through a "pericardial window" via a small incision, either below the end of the breastbone, or between the ribs on the chest’s left side.
"Sue, my wife, stayed with me day and night during both hospital stays. That helped a lot. It’s not just the physical stress of surgery, but there’s anxiety. Here I am, facing my own mortality. I have been, and continue taking cholesterol-lowering medication. I’ve always been active, but my diet sure did change. Out went the Polish sausage, the hickory sticks, the baloney and chips, bacon and sausage, and kidney stew. I never was much for dessert, but I’ve gone to low-fat meats and more vegetables, fruits and fiber. I went through cardiac rehabilitation, and I try to walk 30-40 minutes daily.
"I think those who have a history of family heart disease think they will beat the odds. And, maybe they will. But when you know heredity is not on your side, you owe it to yourself to be careful about what you eat, not smoke, and make time for daily vigorous exercise. It’s just good sense to see your family physician at least twice a year and ask for a total blood cholesterol test. I was lucky. I had the option for surgery. I knew I wouldn’t like the alternative."