Walking strong again
For the past 12 years, Don Myers has been an avid mall walker, trekking two miles, five days a week. The physical activity has boosted his overall health, so he was puzzled when he felt chest pain and shortness of breath.
“I just thought it would go away,” says Don, 71. “I didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about.”
Finally, after two weeks of persistent pain, Don called his primary care doctor, who advised him to go to the hospital immediately.
At the Sentara RMH Heart and Vascular Center, Don learned he had a blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery. The catheterization lab discovered that because of the blockage’s location, it could not be treated with a stent.
Don needed coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). With only one artery requiring grafting, he was a candidate for minimally invasive CABG.
Unlike traditional open heart surgery, which requires the chest to be opened, the minimally-invasive procedure requires only a small, two-inch incision. It can be performed with the heart beating.
New technique, big benefits
Sentara RMH Medical Center began offering the new procedure in 2013. Recovery time is faster, and the surgery leaves a less visible scar than traditional open-heart surgery. Patients are less likely to have complications.
Two weeks after his surgery, Don began cardiac rehab at Sentara RMH Medical Center.
“It was no picnic,” he recalls with a laugh. “But I really have no complaints. They were doing their job and took good care of me.”
Since completing rehab, Don has resumed his normal activities, including walking two miles daily, five days a week at the mall once again.
“I was back on my feet right away and didn’t feel weak,” says Don.
Reassuring other heart patients
Don is now a volunteer at the Sentara RMH Heart and Vascular Center front desk. He understands patients’ concerns.
“Many times, they’re tense and anxious,” he says. “I hope I can put them at ease by helping them through the registration process or getting them a wheelchair or whatever else they might need. Now I can relate to what these patients are going through.”