Summer 2013 - Listen to Your Heart
WakeMed heart patient Bud Coggins shares his story about his battle with heart disease and successful recovery.
My story begins on a warm, muggy August 2002 morning. I was having routine maintenance performed on my car. I began to feel nauseous, but no pain. When I got home, Nancy (my wife) said, “You’re pale as a ghost, what’s wrong?” By then I was sweating but still no pain.
She, being a nurse, recognized the symptoms of a heart attack and gave me an aspirin. I had no previous problems or warning of a heart attack. So, off to WakeMed we went — straight to the Emergency Department.
Dr. Amarendra Reddy of WakeMed Heart & Vascular Physicians was on call and immediately scheduled a heart catheterization. The cath indicated a 40 percent blockage in two arteries. Another artery was 100 percent blocked and had already formed its own bypass. The good news was that no additional invasive procedures were necessary. I went on medications to help keep my blood flowing.
After the “event,” I stepped up my exercise and paid close attention to my eating habits. Subsequently, every year I have had a “heart check,” and all appeared good.
Then came November 2012. Nancy and I were doing our usual workout. We were on treadmills, side by side, when I had an unusual shortness of breath. I thought that I had increased the treadmill speed beyond my usual speed. With Nancy’s strong urging I called for an appointment with Dr. Reddy the next day to “check it out.” The appointments secretary said Dr. Reddy was booked until Dec. 19.
I said, “I think I better come before that.” So, she double-checked and found a cancellation for two days later that had just opened up.
I went to the appointment thinking I might need a stent. After an EKG and further examination, Dr. Reddy determined that a catheterization the next day would confirm what’s going on with my heart.
The cath revealed that I had 99 percent blockage in two main arteries and 70 percent in another, commonly referred to as a “widow maker.” In other words, I was a walking time bomb. I would not have left the hospital that day and surgery would have been scheduled ASAP. However, because I was on Plavix we had to delay the surgery for seven days until it was out of my bloodstream and the risk of complications was reduced.
The cardiac surgeon, Dr. William Killinger, described my situation as an avalanche on a mountain – you don’t know when it will come down, but it is going to come down eventually. He prescribed nitrate pills, and home I went.
Fortunately, no “event” occurred and we went to WakeMed on Dec. 11, 2012, for the surgery. When we reached the entrance, Nancy breathed a sigh of relief and exclaimed, “Okay, now you are theirs.”
Dr. Killinger performed a triple bypass and all went well. The next seven days were pretty rough, but Nancy was by my side 24- 7. I kept my focus on the fact that without the surgery, the odds were that I would not live long. Nancy and I believe, and have many occurrences to support that belief, that everything happens for a reason. We may not know or understand the reason, but I got a second chance at life and am grateful for it.
A couple days before leaving the hospital, Dr. Reddy saw that my heartbeat was irregular and I needed a procedure to shock my heart back into rhythm.
As we prepared for the procedure, my room was filled with a large team of professionals. I was a minute away from being put under sedation when Dr. Reddy came in and cancelled the procedure because my heart rhythm had returned to normal.
Since it was the Christmas season, we labeled the occurrence, “The Christmas Miracle on New Bern Avenue.” The old adage, “All’s well that ends well” certainly applied.
As a side note, I had none of the usual pain and required no pain medicine after surgery. We came home on Dec. 19. You will recall that was the earliest appointment to see
Dr. Reddy at first. (Divine intervention? Go figure.)
As I write this article, I am at mid-point of my 12-week Cardiac Rehab program at WakeMed, being assisted by an awesome team of health professionals. I shall be ever grateful to Dr. Reddy and Dr. Killinger for saving my life. The moral of my story is that your heart may not scream for help, but even if it whimpers, go immediately to your cardiologist to check it out.
Bottom line …“Listen to Your Heart.”