I went to hospital for a triple bypass and had a quadruple!

by Noel
(Country NSW)

Hi, my name is Noel,

Thank you for providing this means of sharing my story with others. Except for my age, my story is somewhat similar to those I have read today. I am 71 years of age and I have always been active, I have lived on a couple of acres in a semi rural area for the past 30 years and had no prior history of cardiac problems. My diet since early childhood has always included a lot of fruit and vegetables and I do not eat a lot of red meat. I do not smoke, eat some fast food occasionally and don't drink heavily or regularly. I have been on blood pressure medication for a few years although this was never viewed as serious and was under control, just a side effect of aging. I have been around 6-9 kg overweight for some years but have never been obese. Our acreage property has a slope to the rear and over the past couple of years I have had to pause for breath when pushing a wheelbarrow full of split wood for the fire the 80 or so metres to the house from the wood pile after splitting it. I thought this was normal for my age! Between 2000 and 2005 I conducted a small lawn mowing business which provided me with plenty of regular exercise. My main point of difference with other contributors is that in late 2011 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Both my specialist and my GP recommended against an operation following the results of a biopsy. In October that year I commenced treatment using hormone therapy by injection with a second injection in early 2012 followed immediately by 9 weeks of daily radiotherapy at the local cancer clinic. I was still experiencing some of the side effects which have been long lasting (irregular hot flushes) when I experienced my cardiac problems. My wife and I have been wondering since whether the two situations are connected!

On the evening of 5 January 2013, watching cricket on TV I started to feel a pain in my chest similar to a pulled or strained muscle. I had been moving some rocks that morning, two of which were quite large and assumed that this had caused me to strain one or more muscles. I went upstairs to obtain painkiller tablets and mentioned it to my wife. The pain became slowly worse. Around 20 - 30 minutes later the pain became severe and I was having difficulty breathing - I managed to get upstairs and tried to phone our GP, however he was not available. My wife then went next door and found our neighbour's at home - he happens to be an Emergency Specialist Doctor and his wife is a nurse. They immediately came and took charge. Soon afterwards the Paramedics arrived and loaded me into the ambulance for the 20 minute ride to the local hospital, the pain was now beginning to subside due to the Angenone tablet they had given me for what was apparently an Angina attack. On arrival I was wheeled in and my neighbour who had also travelled in the ambulance, was able to accurately describe my symptoms to the waiting emergency team. In no time at all I had ECG pads and other monitors in place to assess my problem. There seemed to be a large number of people doing this and it all happened very fast! The ECG's were subsequently able to be compared with one taken six years previously and showed no change - great, I had no heart damage!
I spent two days in hospital, however the stress test taken before discharge showed some problems. I then had to have a more extensive test a week later, this resulted in an Angiogram following which my cardiac Dr advised that I needed a triple bypass. I could not believe this, and told him he had the wrong bloke and that it was all a big mistake - he assured me it was not. I had to wait a few weeks before my op could be done and in that time everyone of my friends without fail all stared in amazement after my telling them of my forthcoming op. The most common comment was that I was the last person they expected to have to undergo cardiac surgery!

I had my bypass op at St Vincents in Sydney on 18/3/2013, going into pre-op at 11.00 am, waking up to find I had a quadruple bypass, not a triple. I remember the breathing tube being removed at around 3.00 am that evening and then sleeping till morning. I then woke to find numerous tubes and wires attached, including an external pacemaker for emergencies. These were removed gradually during my stay, leading to great relief after each one. As expected, I had a large fresh scar in my chest where I had been cracked open and a long fresh scar on each of my legs from which the arteries had been obtained. It transpired that my legs became the most sore of the wounds for some weeks and were very numb around the wounds whereas the chest was mainly numb and stinging.I was very tired for some days and my wife was not able to get a lot of sense out of me when she visited. After a couple of days of much sleeping, I began to feel better and start walking with assistance. By day 3 I was walking around the ward unaided frequently and passed the compulsory 10 steps unaided test on day 4 with flying colours apparently. The doctors and nurses were great without exception and all had the patients welfare foremost in their care. I was glad to be out however after 5 days and commence the rehab process ASAP. I have attended a rehab session at my local hospital and found that very informative. I am now in week 6, I have lost 6kg and am walking for well over an hour daily. I was quite tired after returning home for a couple of weeks. At this stageI was fortunately able to stay with relatives for a few more days before travelling home by train - I slept for much of the journey. I am now driving the car and have operated the ride on mower on level ground for a couple of hours. I am beginning to feel quite well and now seem to be getting my energy levels back to and probably better that previously. I am waking up earlier and seem to be improving daily. My blood pressure has dropped substantially since the op also, this has to be a welcome benefit. My wife has given me tremendous support and helped with everything I have been doing requiring additional support.
After the op I lost my appetite and food generally tasted like cardboard for the first 3 - 4 weeks - apparently this can be a side effect. My taste has returned but I cannot eat large meals - not complaining - this will help lose more weight. As my diet was not bad previously, I will be fine tuning it for the future with even more fresh foods and have already commenced looking at those foods which are recommended such as low fat items replacing the previously consumed ones. I will also make sure that I continue my walking regime as this seems to be one of the most positive changes that can be made. My GP told me of a patient aged in his 90's who had his bypass op 28 years ago. He walks regularly and has not had a problem with his heart in that time.

I would like very much like to become prescribed medication free and will be looking into natural alternatives in the future with my wife who is a qualified naturopath. I have never been happy with taking regular medication on a permanent basis.
I am now looking forward to quite some years of full and active life after having been given my second chance.

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