In January, I met with Dr. Hollett for my annual physical. I think Dr. Hollett is a genius; God has truly blessed this physician. He prescribed routine testing procedures at Crittenton Hospital. My stress test was scheduled for February 8, 2013; a day that started with 5 inches of snow. At 5:15 a.m. I was out of my door and on to Crittenton Hospital for the routine stress test. I met with a team from the Cardiac Rehabilitation, Anne and Rosie, for the test. I told them that I had already had my stress test: just driving here and arriving on time! Needless to say, the treadmill test proceeded anyway. The EKG showed some abnormalities in the rhythm. The stress testing continued and I received a Nuclear Stress Test. Radioactive isotopes were injected into my blood stream. At its conclusion the tech indicated that I could go. Dr. Hollett also called and told me that I could go home, but to take it easy and no over exertion. Once a cardiologist read the test, we would follow up next week.
As I headed for the exit, Bernie Hung chased me down, telling me that I needed to go to the Cath Lab to examine what was going on in my heart. We sat for a few minutes and discussed the procedure and what might happen. He said a stent or two was possible. Off we went to the Cath Lab. I was slightly sedated; the catheter was inserted in my wrist and I was able to see my heart on the monitor. Cool technologies – to see the inside of your beating heart on the monitor above you. The Cardiologist, Dr. Kazziha, came over to the gurney and so I asked: “how many stents will I be getting?” He answered, “Mr. Crawford, you have a very strong heart and you have not had a heart attack or any heart damage. There will be no stents. You will be receiving bypass surgery. ” You’re kidding. I don’t have any pain or heartburn or numbness in my arm????? But, I was still admitted to the Shelton Heart Center where I met with Dr. Fazzalari, Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon. Dr. Fazzalari and his staff explained the surgery procedure for the bypass and indicated that my surgery would be on Tuesday morning. Wait, today is Friday. If I need surgery, shouldn’t it be today or tomorrow? Four days in the hospital before the bypass?
I began meeting with the nursing staff in the Shelton Heart Center. They wouldn’t let me do anything even slightly strenuous, including walking through the halls. The nursing staff helped me and my family to understand what would take place before, during and after my bypass surgery. We watched a video of the operation and how to prepare for the recovery process. Through a lot of questions and answers I learned what to expect, how to improve the outcome, and minimize the recovery time. I set a few goals for myself to help push me along. I also took advantage of the days before surgery to learn how to improve my lung capacity with a breathing apparatus, watch bypass operations on the YouTube, eat the best meals, and thank God for the people in the cardiology testing, my nurses, and my surgical team. The afternoon of the 11th was kind of a party; everyone was coming to wish me well. A group of visitors from the hospital, including Bernie Hung and his team, Dr. Fazzalar and his team, and the anesthesiologists all came to prepare me for the festivities in the morning. I received a Teddy Bear from the hospital to hug after the operation. Little did I know what an important part of recovery that the bear would be!
The morning of February 12, 2013, my family gathered together to pray for me. The surgical team and I said a silent pray for my family and I told them not to worry. I was in God’s hands. The last thing I remember was being in the operating room in a semiconscious state and I was struggling to breath. I remember hearing someone say that they were taking out the ventilator. Next, I woke up to my wife and family and I was thanking God that I was not looking down from above. Dr. Fazzalari came in and told me what a wonderful job he had done. I said, “I know you did.” My next step, with God’s help, was to get better quickly and leave the hospital as soon as possible. But I needed to eat first. I was starving and I guess that was a good sign.
Pain management: That was a tough one for me. I have a high tolerance for pain and a dislike for pain medications. But I needed to take the meds so that I could do deep breathing, hug the bear (the Teddy Bear I received before my surgery,) and cough. The nurses were very helpful. They understood that I didn’t want to be groggy and that if I said no thanks, they won’t make me take it. So again, they helped me learn about the medication and my limits with and without pain medication. Once they pulled out the tubes, I was out of bed and starting to walk. That first day it was not easy, but I had to push through it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
With help from the nursing staff, I walked the corridors of the Heart Center and got strong enough to leave the hospital. Less than three week after the my event, I was meeting with Doctor Kazziha for a stress test that would allow me to go back to work and to start Cardiac Rehab. Three weeks after bypass surgery I was back to work and off to rehab to make me stronger. At Crittenton Cardiac Rehab, I met with Kristie. I set a goal to run a 5K that spring or summer and possibly a marathon in October. In Rehab, I learned valuable information about my health, target heart rate, exercise, my cardiovascular system, nutrition and how to strengthen my heart. With help and guidance from the Rehab team, I was able to lose 30 pounds and in June, I entered my first Crittenton 5K Fun Run / Walk.
I have since graduated from Crittenton’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program but continue to attend Phase 3 to monitor my heart and maintain my weight. I can honestly state that without the Cardiovascular Programs at Crittenton Hospital and God’s intervention, this story may have had a very different outcome.