Ed Smith ~ October 31, 2003

Last Updated January 29, 2004

I am writing this with much sadness. Last week while undergoing a routine physical it was discovered that I had a heart problem. They pulled me off the tread mill after only 2 minutes and ordered me back in the morning for an angioplasty.

They ran a catheter up through my leg into my heart, hoping to diagnose the problem and place a stint. They found I have numerous blockages in my heart exceeding 70% and one artery that is 100% clogged. The areas and type of blockages precluded any chance of installing a stint. Also, they can not do bypass surgery because the area is so wide spread and too advanced. They described it as an advanced state of heart disease in several portions of my heart.

The heart surgeon with over 20 years experience said he has never seen anything like it and called in the senior heart specialist of over 30 years and he also said he has never seen anything like it. It seems that is the story of my life. They are conferring with their colleagues to try to understand what can be done, but they are not optimistic.

From scar tissue and other information they concluded that I had a major heart attack about 3 or 4 years ago, and had several subsequent heart attacks since. They can’t understand why I didn’t know, because they said it would have been a traumatic experience with much pain that I would have remembered.

My cholesterol was only slightly higher than normal (200) and my blood pressure is good. There are no outward indications that I could have such a problem. They have me taking several medications to thin my blood and lower the cholesterol and I am not supposed to do anything strenuous. They said technically that I am now totally disabled.

Sandra and I pondered to tell no one, but we realize that being a high visibility person known by many throughout the county it would be difficult to keep it quiet. Also, it would be unfair to Corine and Katy not to know.

I am facing the reality that I have a limited time to live.

November 5, 2003

Last night around 8:00 PM, I was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony's for what I thought was a heart attack. It turned out to be an angina "compensation" associated with my heart condition, but not an actual heart attack. They wanted to keep me overnight for observation, but I refused to stay and returned home after midnight. Please, I don't need 40 phone calls with advice on what to do, or take, etc. They only upset me and aggravate the condition. I appreciate that everyone loves me and wants to help, but I am in capable hands, and we are starting to gain a more thorough understanding of the magnitude and peculiarities of the problem.

November 6, 2003

Today we had a talk with our primary doctor. He said after much consultation with heart surgeons and cardiac specialists, that I am a good candidate for a heart transplant. Sandra and I are getting educated real fast on what is involved. I am not the kind of guy that is just going to roll over and die. I am resolute that one of two things will occur. I will either fix the problem or die trying.

December 3, 2003

Today Sandra and I went to the University of Chicago Medical Center for a conference with a noted Heart surgeon. He has done over 650 heart transplants with a 96% success ratio. His name is Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam (Click on his name to see his credentials). He specializes in performing heart operations that others say can't be done. I scheduled an operation with him and his heart specialists team for Tuesday, December 9 at the University of Chicago Hospital. It will be a non-conventional open heart surgery. They will first do conventional bypass operations on different arteries that are about 70% blocked. Then they will connect me to an artificial heart machine to pump my blood. This way they can manipulate the position of the heart to allow access to the main artery that is 100% blocked. They hope to repair or replace that artery. If it is successful, I will more or less be able to lead a normal life with reduced work capability after physical rehabilitation. If it is not, they will leave me on the heart machine until a donor heart can be found for a transplant. There is a slim chance that I will not survive the operation. But I have a lot of confidence in his abilities and a lot of faith in my ability to survive. I have chosen to accept this risk. I firmly believe that the operation will be successful.

December 9, 2003

I had the operation.

December 14, 2003

I am home. I can not have visitors for a week to 10 days. The surgery went well and my recovery was remarkably accelerated. Here's what they did. They opened my chest cavity, removed an artery from the chest wall and did a traditional double bypass on the front side. Then they removed a 17 inch long artery in my left leg from my groin to just below the knee. They partially removed my heart so they could get at the inside (underside) of it. They strung the 17 inch artery in and out through the backside of my heart much like putting Christmas tree lights on. They attached it for blood flow at several places creating secondary routes for blood to circulate through my heart. They said the best way they could describe it was similar to 5 bypasses, but with one long vein. They reinstalled my heart. Recovery went well. I was walking up stairs my 3rd day after surgery. I am full of holes, stitches, bruises, and have several large bandages on over "drain" areas. They lined up my chest incision down the middle of my body, and it stops at the scar from the incision made for my diverticulites operation several years ago, so I will have a long scar from below my waist to almost my neck. After a full recovery, I should be back to a normal lifestyle with altered eating habits and taking medication from now on. By this summer I will be able to do all the heavy work I used to do. Right now I have to avoid getting a cold or the flu, because that would be devastating to my breathing ability, so I am avoiding people as much as possible and wearing a surgical mask when out of the house.

January 7, 2004

We went to the University of Chicago for a post operative procedure of running a battery of tests, X-rays and evaluations. Everything appears to be OK, but they are concerned about my sternum. They said to schedule a follow-up visit with my Cardiologist to lay out a plan for recovery.

January 29, 2004

We had our first follow-up visit to my Cardiologist for an assessment of my condition, and to arrange for a recovery and rehabilitation timetable. After evaluation of a few tests, we received great news! My recovery was so quick, so strong and so effective, that I need no physical therapy and I can start driving again (That's a relief for Sandra). I have no restrictions with the exception that I must develop my upper body strength steadily over time. It could take as much as 1 year for my Sternum to heal. I will then be at full strength again. My cholesterol level was at 200 and I knocked it down to 94! I lost 40+ pounds, and I am much more health conscious.

Sandra has been effective in regulating my food input. Basically if it tasted good, then it's wasn't healthy for me. But we've adapted well to different styles of foods and she continues to experiment with different ways of preparing things that we like, and using alternate "non-fat" products. She lost 15 Lbs. as well! When Corine came home from school one weekend, she complained there was no food. She couldn't find potato chips, Snickers bars, Caramel corn, Dorito's, etc. All she could find was 2 kinds of grapes, Oranges, Potatoes, Ham, etc.

It's difficult to believe that I went from a just a standard stress test, through open heart surgery, to total recovery in less than 3 months! They informed me I would be taking medication the rest of my life, but I now have a stronger cardiovascular system as a result.

I would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. I am now cured.