By Jack Myers
Editor’s Note: Read an update Jack Myers sent to UMMC cardiac surgeon Dr. Jamie Brown in January of 2011.
I’m 72 years old and can’t believe that as I sit here and type this, tears are rolling down my cheeks.
I found out approximately five years ago that I had aortic valve regurgitation. At first I wasn’t really concerned. The physician at the VA clinic sent me for an echocardiogram and it was confirmed. Fortunately, my family physician’s husband and daughter are fantastic cardiologists. So for the past five years I’ve had EKGs and MUGA (Multiple-Gated Acquisition Scan) tests. I have always been my own advocate when it comes to my health care. I want to know what’s going on, why I feel the way I do, and what decisions I can make to have a better outcome.
Several years ago my cardiologist had a false positive reading on my stress test. He immediately sent me to UMMC for a cardiac catheterization. I have had procedures done before but this time it was different. It was my heart! Once again, that fear of the unknown came over me while the test was being performed and the tears were running down my cheeks. I can’t begin to tell you how these wonderful nurses comforted me. I knew at that moment what hospital I would choose to have my surgery.
Now that I knew the hospital, I had plenty of time to choose my surgeon. It would take two more years before that final EKG. When I saw it, I knew surgery wasn’t far away and I was on the Internet learning about aortic valve replacement, what type of valves are available, and the different procedures. I had some important decisions to make.
I watched Dr. Jamie Brown do the aortic valve replacement procedure on the UMMC Web site. I looked at Dr. Brown’s bio and decided this was the guy! As I waited for that interview I talked to Jo Ann Sikora, C.R.N.P. — she’s fantastic! Never feel that the questions you are about to ask are trivial. They are not! When I met Dr. Brown, he sat there relaxed, cool as a cucumber, answering my questions in layman’s terms about procedures and different types of valves. When we finished I had the most positive attitude toward him and my surgery. I was totally ready, without hesitation! I had chosen my surgeon.
I arrived at UMMC at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning October 7, 2009, to begin the most extraordinary experience of my life. I kissed my wife, son, and a close friend, letting them know I would see them in a little while. I was wheeled into the surgical suite and was sound asleep in no time at all. When I woke up all I could hear was this beautiful voice repeating “Breathe through your nose, wake up, and wake up.” It was my wife. The team that Dr. Brown has chosen is nothing less than remarkable!
A short time later, it was time for me to get out of bed and walk. I thought that when my feet hit the floor I was going to collapse. With the help of this amazing physical therapist who took care of me while in the ICU, I was able to walk approximately six to eight feet, shaking, crying and letting the fear of the unknown grasp me once again. I had to get out of bed every few hours and do this. I knew it was for my own good. The next day I was transferred to the cardiac surgery stepdown unit and was able to get out of bed myself and walk the halls. It was a wonderful feeling.
By Friday almost all of my drain tubes were removed. This was three days after the coronary artery bypass graft and aortic valve replacement! By Saturday I was on my way back home. I actually felt well enough to go home. We had made arrangements for my niece to come and help take care of me. She arrived three days later. That evening, less than one week after surgery, I fixed her and my wife dinner. I didn’t have to do any lifting, but was able to do what I really enjoy.
When I saw Dr. Brown for my six-week checkup, I let him know what a fantastic job he did, and how grateful my family and friends are. Due to that most remarkable job, I’m able to enjoy my new great grandson, born on November 3, 2009.