Saturday, August 22nd I walked the CimTel 5K Classic, just four months after having a double bypass. To me, walking this 3.1 mile race was not only my way to thank CimTel for providing our community schools with such needed financial support but to also show myself how far I have come in such a short amount of time. Now I’m sharing my bypass story with others in hope they will listen to their body the way I did mine.
It was during a snowy day last February that I first became aware of a problem. We have a short but steep hill to get up to reach our home north of Mannford. My wife’s car got stuck and I was bringing a bag of sand and a shovel over to the hill to help her. By the time I got there I was so out of breath that I had to rest for a while before we could dig her out.
Now, I know my body. I know every ache and pain and pay attention when something is not right. I knew I take a statin to maintain my cholesterol level. I knew I was slightly over-weight but not by much. I knew my diet wasn’t the best but I didn’t eat junk food all day and night. I knew I was active, exercising and splitting a lot of wood, helping to stay in shape. So why was I so out of breath?
While I knew something wasn’t right, I put off calling my doctor. Maybe I thought the shortness of breath would go away like a cold or the flu. But every time I would exert myself, I found myself huffing and puffing. Finally in mid-March I called my family doctor. He had me come right in and did an EKG. It came out perfect, but he had me go to a pulmonologist to check the lungs. They turned out fine so he had me go to a cardiologist for further tests. The cardiologist had me take a stress test. The results showed something wasn’t right so he ordered a heart catheterization. This was done on a Thursday. It showed 95 percent blockage in two arteries and we scheduled a double bypass for the coming Wednesday.
From the catheterization to the surgery was only one week, not a great deal of time to wrap my head around what I was about to go through. But I have a wonderful employer in the Mental Health Association Oklahoma and we arranged for the members of my staff to take over my duties. My wife Cyd and daughter Sarah Beth were right there with me, offering their support and love. My son in Nebraska offered to come down but I told him I would probably need him more during my recovery. After all, I expected to come through the surgery just fine. Why would I think anything less.
I had the surgery and was in the hospital for only 4 ½ days. My recovery from home went great, as I did everything my doctors told me to do and was often seen in my neighborhood taking my prescribed walks. By listening to the signs my body was sending me and not waiting for a heart attack, my heart was in excellent condition. I was back to work part-time after four weeks and now I’m doing everything I did before the surgery. I’m swimming, cutting and splitting wood, following a healthy diet, exercising and feeling great. And I’ve kept off the nineteen pounds I lost. I felt so good I just walked 3.1 miles in the CimTel 5K Classic, despite the constant rain. I’m doing so well because I listened to my body. I didn’t wait for the ambulance to rush me to the hospital which would have been the case if I waited to address the body signals and had a heart attack. I didn’t act like most men do and try and shake it off or believe if I ignored it the symptoms would just magically go away.
No one knows how we feel better than we do. It takes more courage to deal with our symptoms than to ignore them. Being a man doesn’t mean we have to be stupid. Warning signs do just that. They warn. Whether we listen or not is up to us. I thank God that I listened and now I’m feeling great and able to spend many more years with my wife, son and daughter.
Please listen to your body. If something isn’t right, get it taken care of. Find time to see the doctor instead of excuses not to. By listening, you too can save your life.