My quadruple heart bypass experience.

by Rocky Leonard
(Rhodes, Michigan)

It started in 2006.

The first sign I had that there was a problem was one day my shoulder started hurting. I thought I just pulled a muscle. It was intermittent for about a year or so.

My wife and I, along with my best friend and his wife, were planning a motorcycle ride to Kentucky. About 4 or 5 days before our plan to leave, the pain disappeared. So that was great.

We went to Kentucky for 10 days, no problems at all. So, sometime after our trip, months or so, the shoulder pain started again. I was 44 years old.

Here is a little history about myself. I smoked cigarettes for 31 years at that time; I worked out, and ate healthy, very healthy. I have always been active and never used table salt. My father had heart disease and my grandfather died of a massive heart attack. So my chances of heart disease are/were higher.

Anyway, I had the shoulder pain, and ignored it. About 2008 I started having what I didn't think of as chest pain, but more of a discomfort in my chest area (my upper left chest area). I guess when I look back on it; you could say it was pressure.

I started to think I had a problem with my heart. I actually didn't want to deal with it. I was scared of dealing with it, so I pretended it wasn't so bad. I told my wife almost every day, my chest hurt. She kept telling me to go to the doctor or hospital, I refused. It was strange, I want to give a list of some of the things that I felt so everyone can understand that people have different symptoms and they not always what you think or read about.

My symptoms were, chest discomfort, that I couldn't actually describe, shoulder pain, sometimes headache, I got short winded easy, high blood pressure, here's is the one that was the strange one, I had a constant pain in my back, just below my left shoulder blade about where my heart is. There were all kinds of warning signs that I couldn't find online when I searched for the symptoms. My wife and I have 3 children with severe disabilities and I didn't realize I had as much stress in my life, until we moved up north.

We live in Michigan. Then I began to realize that I needed to find out what was wrong with me. My wife insisted I see a doctor, so I did. When I finally went to a general doctor, I explained that I had been to the emergency room twice before seeing him, and the hospital said the blood test cardio enzymes were normal, the EKG was normal and x-rays were normal, that I only had high blood pressure and anxiety. He listened to what I said, but he also said that all I had was anxiety and high blood pressure, prescribed meds for my blood pressure and made an appointment to come back. After about 4 or 5 months of visits I finally told him that I have something wrong and we need to find out what. I have a skin condition (psoriasis) and he asked me about any back pain, I told him about the heart back pain, and he asked about any other back pain. I told him sometimes I have a stiff back, but I blamed that on my bed. He then checked my knee's for reflexes and kept telling me to relax my knees (which I was) and he could find good reflex in my knees. So he started to believe me that I did have something wrong.

So my doctor kept insisting that I had anxiety and wanted me to get medication for it, I kept telling him, I wouldn't have anxiety if I didn't think I was going to die from a heart attack. So he ordered a Nuclear Stress Test and x-rays for my back, and a lung test, because of the shortness of breath. I went for the Nuclear Stress Test and x-rays at the same time a couple weeks later. I got the results back and they said I have psoriatic arthritis in my upper and lower spine, and also what appears to be a lack of blood flow to the bottom of my heart, but the lack of blood flow was only during resting. So I went to a Cardiologist as directed. The Cardiologist read everything from the hospital, tests and doctors office, and said that from the test results and my heart being so healthy, that he believed the test was a false positive, meaning the test was wrong. But he made an appointment for Cardiac catheterization.

When I went for the Cardiac catheterization that doctor (a different doctor) said the same thing. My heart was very healthy and all the tests were showing a good healthy heart. He said that he thought there was most likely a false positive too.

Here is why I believe the test was good and not showing heart problems. Every time I had chest pain, instead of doing nothing, I walked. I walked at least 1 mile at least once a day, minimum. So that kept my heart healthy enough to keep me alive.

So anyway, the doctor put the cath in me, and snooped around for a while. I made him go through my arm for the cath. After about an hour of the Cardiac catheterization, I asked him how it looked. He replied with, "I have been doing this for over 20 years, and never seen such a healthy heart need a minimum of a triple bypass"

Every single doctor was wrong from the start, I was the only one who knew something was wrong.

So here is some of the rest of my story. This was the middle of 2010 I forgot to mention. I was scheduled for surgery in September 2010 for surgery. 3 days before surgery, the nurse called me and cancelled my date with no new date yet. After 2 weeks of waiting I started to turn grey in color, and I could smell, actually smell death emanating from me. So I called the doctors office back to no avail. Finally I said "look, I am dying, I feel death coming" she finally got me a new appointment for November 5th, 2010.

I went in the day of surgery, all went fine. I actually had to stay 7 days instead of the usual 5 days, they couldn't get my heart rate down, and finally, they let me go home. Now here it is February 9, 2011, a little over 12 weeks since surgery. Let me tell you, recovery sucks. The first 4 to 8 weeks is very uncomfortable. Pain is good and bad at times. Everything scares you. I had an infection when I first got out from the port in my left hand that traveled up my arm; I had to get meds for that too. Sneezing is the worst thing about after surgery. Every little ache and pain will seem like something terrible. I had a pulled muscle, or pinched nerve in my neck area that was so bad that I couldn't tell what or where the pain was coming from. I thought my surgery failed, till my wife rubbed the pain out of my shoulder and the pain is now gone. I am still somewhat afraid.

That is my story; I hope it helps someone with answers they can’t find elsewhere. I also will talk to anyone on the phone or facebook (Rocky Leonard) that need support. My e-mail is if you need someone to talk to. Thanks for reading my story. I hope I helped someone through this tough time.


Comments for My quadruple heart bypass experience.

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by: Rocky L

Pain is pretty normal. You are only a few months out of surgery. I say give it a little more time. That early out of ohs I was scared about everything. If you would like someone to talk to or whatever, email me


Pain 5 months AFTER my I go get checked?
by: Cyn

Rocky your story is something, I feel for you, and pray everything is good for you, and that you live a lONG happy life. I had a MI in may of 2004. Mild they say, but it required a stent. Now 2012, I needed my two yr stress test, so my cardio informed me I had a lil blockage going on, and another stent was needed, so back to the cath lab. On the table within 5 minutes, my Dr, pilled off his gloves and told me I needed at least a triple by pass and that he was admitting me and I'd be seeing a surgeon. To make a long story short, that was 8/5/12, and it's now 1/19/13, and I need to ask SOMEBODY for their advice on this one- I've been having pressure pain over my heart/upper left breast since late last night. It feels like it could be my L. shoulder acting up, as I have a bad rotator that needs surgery...BUT.. it doesn't change much when I move my arm around, and I don't notice any other symptoms. I'm terrified that it's my heart again...But I also am alone and don't want to go rushing into the ER right now. Could this be ANGINA? Could it mean my heart has another blokced artery? A lady I know had one of her grafted arteries collapse and totally occlude on her 3 yrs after her surgery! I was shocked to hear that! I am now 55 yrs young, and everyday I quietly wonder how long I will live. My family has no clue how much fear I have, or how I want to cry my herart OUT from time to time when i realize everything they did to me in surgery...My Surgeon was someone I never met before, and he cut me crooked as hell, then the bottom of my incision oopened up, and I had to pack it 3-5x a day- Luckily I knew how to do my own wound care as I had a wound vac on my knee for 7 months after getting MRSA in the OR from a Arthroscopy on my knee that resulted in 5 surgeries after to save my life. That was in 2/2010. My incision had stitches broken and hnging out, and they said let the skin grow over them, don't pull them out, so I didn't. Myu scar is ghastly and lumpy now. But I need to know if I should stop thinking "It's MY shoulder
and just go get checked. Stupid it seems, but I truly don't know if its my heart or not, but I'm scared! Thanks anyone/everyone who resplies back. I appreicate it.

thanks for sharing
by: Anonymous

Hi thanks for sharing your story...I am 35 yr old woman, for the past two weeks having been getting really intense spasms/ chest pain..last week it was in centre of chest but this week its moved to the left side or sometimes higher up feels like my throat, also get jaw pain sometimes with this pain and pain in my ears!! i suffer anxiety and thats whats putting me off going to docs incase they just put it down to this. i have recorded when, where i have these symptoms over past two days in case i go see docs, they appear to be coming every 20/40/60 mins. ouch having one now, they don't last long a few minutes to ten mns at a time. My dad had three heart attacks by time he was 40...should i just insist they get me checked properly? they did a heart trace for two mins last week but didn't go for my appointment next day for results..surely they wud have phoned me if anything was wrong? sorry, I know I have gone on a bit, but something tells me its not right, can't be heartburn cos surely it would stay there also i take ranitidine and this should take away any heartburn.
Thanks again for sharing your story

Saying A Prayer For You!
by: Rosie O'Grady

Rocky, thanks for sharing your story and the follow-ups. Hope you are doing well now.

Left Hand pain
by: vikas mehta

My father too is sufferring from the left hand pain after two months bypass surgery.
He too was asked to wait for a day more before surgery.
I would highly appreciate if you could let me know any procedure or test to cure the same hand pain.

Vikas Mehta

I'm scared too
by: Terry

Rocky, thanks for sharing your story. I am 62 year old woman and never sick a day in my life until all of a sudden I seemed to have a hard time breathing and some chest pain. Went on for a few months and figured, I guess I should see a doctor. After I explained my symptoms, she made me go right over to the ER and after a bunch of testing they found blockage in two arteries. I was operated on immediately for double bypass. That was May 28th of this year and I still am in shock.
I guess Im recovering ok. Whats scaring me is not my heart now, but the leg they harvested the vein from. The wound isn't closing and I cant seem to get any straight answers from anyone. I am undergoing deep wound care now and it still looks the same. When I ask the surgeon he says, well we will try this etc.... and changes what is being done. Its like they have no idea what to do and I gotta tell you that's pretty scary. The nerves are dead and the stuff I am reading on the internet says 5 out of 45 ppl who had this problem lost their legs??????
Anyway, thanks for listening.

More issues
by: Rocky

I'm having some more issues these days. I guess it would have been a good idea for the doctor or somebody to inform me that some of the reason I have a little chest discomfort is that not only did the surgeon harvest a vein in my leg, but he also harvested my lima, left mammy artery. That sure would have helped me through some anxiety. I'm not having much faith in my medical team. Starting to get a little discouraged. Not to mention that they collapse your lungs during surgery and that accounts for the lung pain one might experience. And also the fact that some people experience high sugar issues after surgery, granted that as almost always temporary. I asked the nurse a ton of questions on the phone today. I just wish I had someone to talk to on the phone or in person. I have 3 children with Angelman Syndrome, so the worry is overbearing at times. I'm so scared at times about dying and my wife having to deal with that and my children pretty much by herself. I am just glad to have God on my side. Thanks Brian, your words have helped me more than you know.

by: Rocky

First Thanks Coleen, and Brian.

I wanted to follow up about the pain in my shoulder at the end of my story. It seems that My EKG on 2/09-2011 and the one taken at cardio rehab on 2/10/2011 turned up that I had a minor heart attack recently. He here I go again. I'm not sure I trust the current medical personal I'm dealing with now. My cardiologist didn't tell me about the abnormality on my recent EKG. I wish I knew more, but as it stands, I won't know more until I call and start asking him questions. If anyone that is reading this could please say a quick prayer for me, I would appreciate it very much. I'll follow up here as soon as the info comes my way. Thank you for reading this, and the encouragement.


Living after almost dying
by: Brian from North Carolina

I'm not much older than you Rocky. Age 50. I was 49 when I had a fairly mild heart attack but fairly major triple bypass last April.

Rocky, I was walking 20 minutes a day almost immediately. Very slowly, mind you, but walking. Pain was minimal. I was fortunate. God blessed me. I've exercised religiously six or seven days a week since this happened. I've been jogging - again, pretty doggone slowly - for almost six months.

I understand those scary little twinges you feel. I still have them. I understand the emotions of this. My wife and kids say I'm downright mean sometimes. I say it's a natural reaction to qutting smoking. :) At any rate, Rocky, there's a whole damn bunch of folks like me and you out there, foundering around, trying to find our way, dealing with, as much as anything, our fears.

I ran into a guy last week. I happened to mention my whole heart thing (talking helps, I've found). He told me he had triple bypass when he, like me, was 49.

He's now 75.

Hang in there Rocky.

by: Coleen

Awesome tell all Rocky. I'm sure it's gonna help someone else. It's helped me with what signs to look for. Thanks for writing.

Coleen -

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