I Always Thought I Was Fit...

I’m 41 and I’ve had a double bypass.

I’m a builder by trade so although I’m overweight, I always thought I was fit because I could outrun my younger laborers. They found my heart problem by chance as I had no symptoms, no pains, no nothing. Yes, I got a bit of heartburn and out of breath a bit, but my 21 year old laborer would be dying on the floor so I thought nothing of it.

I wasn’t looking forward to surgery because I thought my whole life would change, I even put it off for a further three months, making up some excuse that I needed to save my money for the time off that I would be having. Anyway D-DAY arrived.


I went into St. Thomas Hospital thinking this is it - still smoking by the way. I smoked right up to the hour I was meant to be operated on, something I later regretted. Because I thought I might as well finish off the bad arteries I had since they would be renewing them. Yes, silly thought I know. Funny how the mind works so you don’t kick a habit. You convince yourself it’s all good.

I went on the operating table on the Monday morning and they woke me back up on the Wednesday. I had internal bleeding or something. I had a 2% chance of having this problem and I got it. 2% that’s all and the surgeon said it was all because I smoked right up to the last minute that they couldn’t stop the bleeding. Waking up with two big pipes down my throat was another factor. I thought I woke up in hell. I didn’t want to scare no one but I was in a lot of pain and I couldn’t believe I was under for so long.

The first night was terrible. I wanted to sleep but couldn’t because of the pain and I couldn’t get comfortable on their bed. I had no strength and wondered if I had made the right choice. Remember, I thought I was as fit as a fiddle. The second day was no better and I remember seeing this other chap in his 80s who had the same operation as me taking it all in his stride - reading his paper and drinking his drink - just getting on with it, which made me feel a bit of a wimp (lol) because you could say I was a terrible patient.

Day three got a bit better because I managed to get, I think, three hours sleep. Wow. Walking 15 paces to the bathroom I would get out of breath and wanted my oxygen. It was so hard to breathe without it that I would panic. I learned to calm down and take slow breaths and it would work. Once I stopped panicking it was easier to walk that 15 steps. Still got out of breath, though.


Anyway, from then on every day got easier and I only stayed in hospital seven days. I still wake up a bit stiff , but once the body starts moving you loosen up a bit. It’s six weeks today I had my operation and I feel great. I have tried to rush my recovery a bit though and got told off because I rode my push bike 17 miles when I was only three weeks post op.

I just can’t believe how scared I was about having this operation. I thought I would be laid up in bed for three months not being able to do nothing, but that’s not true at all. Yes, the first three days are the worst and the rest of the week is bearable, but every day truly gets better. So much so that I’ve forgotten how much pain I was in.

Part of the club

YEP, I have my Man Scar now and am part of the gang - so they told me in hospital. They took an artery out of my arm so it made walking easier for me than the other chaps.

I even cracked jokes telling the other patients that the surgeon opened me up two or three times because he couldn’t find his Rolex watch in my chest. Yes, they opened me up three times and I was still out of the hospital on the Saturday!

I find putting on t-shirts or jumpers (sweaters) so irritating because they rub on my scar and it’s still a little bit sore. But I can wear them when I’m walking or riding my bike. That’s the worst thing I’m finding about it now - is clothes.

Anyway, hope I haven’t bored you lot - but if you’re someone like me who is having this operation and you’re scared to death, all I can say is I remember worse toothaches and it’s not as bad as all that and welcome to the club!

Kindest regards,

Comments for I Always Thought I Was Fit...

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I thouhgt i was super fit too
by: James netzer

Dear nando,
Same experience about tge clothing and the smoking too.
Was wondering whether smoking pipe or cigar would be okay as we hardly inhale like normal cigarettes.
I ad double bypass.Hardly any pain for me.

bye pass
by: pat

i had a quad bye pass 5 years ago and i go true it ever day as panic attacks and dreams of what i went true on that table my lelf leg still gives a lot of pain as my chest does but i pray to god that i am here to tell you life is great and i love to tell the all the people that gave me life ta ta from the people that done cpr to nurses doctors ambulance crew i salute ye brave people and who knows life has to go one pat

Those damn cigarettes
by: Brian from North Carolina

Hey Nando. Good story. Hope you're well. The night of my heart attack, I drove halfway to the hospital, changed my mind, drove back home and took some tums and ibuprofen. I'm sure I'll be OK, I told my wife. An hour later, I got back in the car and headed to the hospital, chain smoking as I went. I guess I thought it might calm my nerves and stop my heart from trying to beat right out of my ribs. I got to the hospital. Looked and saw I had one cigarette left in the pack. Thinking it was likely to be the last, I smoked it before I went in.

That was my last cigarette. April 28, 2010. Hope it's going well with you. Closest I've come to being tempted since then came the night after I watched "True Grit." Jeff Bridges, as Rooster Cogburn, rolled his own smokes and, damn, made them look so good I dreamed about smoking that night. That aside, it's all good.

Best to you. Hang in there.

Time is a great healer
by: Kevi n Eric

It has been 6 months now since I had my double bypass and it is all slowly becoming a blur now, at the time I asked the surgeon at St Thomas if there was really any need as I had already had two Stents put in 9 years before when I was 44 years old.

I will admit my stay in Hospital was not a happy one but as for the surgery I can not fault the team or the immediate after care in the critical recovery ward, my stay on the general ward was not pleasant but that was down to over worked NHS nurses, that aside all the worries I had before did not come to pass I was breathing on my own after 24 hours and the pain is helped by a healthy shot of Morphine as and when you need it, yes it is uncomfortable let no one tell you other wise but if you do all that is asked of you by the experts you will heal much quicker and the over riding factor is ' give yourself time' do not rush anything let the body heal in it's own way.

6 months has flown by and now I walk much more easily and feel better in myself all around I am now considering changing career ( I was in the building trade) and have taken the first steps in approaching a charitable agency that helps you to retrain after a illness or large operation.

Do as you are asked by the experts and give yourself time to heal do not expect too much from yourself in the early days after the op
( relatives of mine who had the same procedure tell me a year until you are fully recovered)and all will be fine. Kevin Eric

Been There
by: Anonymous

I also had quadruple bypass two years ago. I am in my 50s, thin, don't smoke, and tried to be healthy. I had thought I was having reactions to food heartburn, but soon found out after a heart attack at work it wasn't heartburn. I was scheduled for the bypass surgery week later. I don't even remember waking up at all between my surgery and the next two times I was opened up. I also had bleeding after surgery. They opened me up the evening after my first time in - couldn't find the bleed closed me up and the doctor went home, only to be called right back. He opened me up once again and found the bleed to be in the chest wall, an old scar tissue from some long ago injury. They cauterized it and put some stuff on it, after that I was on my way to recovery. Took longer to heal but I am now doing great, the bleed they said was because i was on blood thinners week before surgery after heart attack, my body didn't get rid of them as fast as it should have. Yes @percent chance and that was me. Ken

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