By Edward Platt
From 1937 until mid-2014, I never spent a single night in a hospital bed. I had all the typical early childhood diseases, but in my day, our family doctor made house calls and would simply write out prescriptions.
That all changed dramatically in my 77th year when I failed to recognize the onset of an asymptomatic heart attack. During a routine annual medical exam, my personal care provider (PCP) gave me an electrocardiogram. He informed me that I needed medical attention right away.
By the time I arrived at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)-Presbyterian, a team of heart specialists were on hand in case I required immediate surgical intervention. That was not the case. The damage to my heart muscle had already been done, and surgery would not restore it. I stayed in the hospital four days under constant monitoring and testing. The cardiac team decided that treatment with medication was the best course of action.
Fast Forward to September 2015.
After dinner, I began feeling unwell and asked my wife to take me to the emergency room. We made a quick stop at a nearby ambulance service substation where an EMT confirmed my suspicions that I was having another cardiac episode. I boarded an ambulance for a quick trip to our local medical center where I was prepped for the ambulance ride to UPMC Presbyterian. A heart catheterization revealed serious blockage in three arteries leading to the heart. Stents would not help, so the cardiac team recommended triple coronary artery bypass graft surgery, to be performed as soon as blood thinners had worked their way out of my system. Five days later, a highly skilled surgical team went to work.
Following the procedure, the surgeon came in to tell me that the process had been successful, and he visited me each day until I was discharged from the hospital. The discharge document covered all aspects of my treatment, along with relevant test results, medicine prescriptions, and recommendations for rehab treatment. Follow-up appointments with my surgeon, cardiologist and PCP were all scheduled for me. Recommendations for skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities near my home were listed, and we telephoned our personal selection from the list to reserve a room. The entire process was spelled out, and everything went very smoothly and efficiently. I was certainly impressed.
I spent three weeks at the skilled nursing home receiving physical and occupational therapy to make sure that I could function in a home environment. When I was discharged, a rehab specialist from the team accompanied me home to survey our living quarters and make suggestions to facilitate my transition. Now with cardiac rehab – including regular treadmill and exercise bike sessions – under way at my local hospital, my journey back to good health is nearly over.
Since returning home, everything has gone smoothly, and my doctors are pleased by my progress. I should mention that I have type 2 diabetes. Before surgery, I was managing it through exercise and diet. Post-surgery, I was put on insulin injections out of concern that the trauma of the surgery might cause problems with my glucose level. I remain on the injections for now and am pleased to say that my glucose levels are well within “normal” limits. I continue to eat a heart-healthy diet and get regular exercise. By spring, I expect to be swinging my golf club and riding my bike again.
From start to finish, my experience with the health care system has been smooth and efficient. From PCP, to ambulance service through two hospitals and a skilled nursing facility, I have received excellent, safe medical care and attentive service. The only problem I encounter is that most of my friends have a difficult time believing that I was ever ill.