heart disease

My heart disease story

by Duane Ausherman

This is an article in progress.  I hope to add to it from time to time.

Previous to my quintuple by-pass surgery, I nearly died three times in the previous year.   I may add to this article later…… I hope.

The day after Linda and I got married in Colorado, we were in a mall where some agency was testing for cholesterol for no charge.  We both got tested and the results were life-changing.  My results were so high that the agency called us on the phone to warn me that I must make some changes, or die.  My total number was well over 300.

Linda became my “health nazi” and we went on a low-fat diet immediately.    It was a long and slow battle to get my numbers down as we learned more about diet and exercise.  I had been a jogger since I was in my mid-teens, so not much could be changed in that area.

I just remembered another odd incident.  As I was going under from the anesthesia, they had me counting backward from 100.  I was holding some person’s hand.  When they thought that I was out, they began to intubate me.  As they were sliding the tube down my throat, they went too far and were hitting the split where it branched off to the right and left lung.  They aren’t supposed to go that far.  It was uncomfortable and I was unable to speak to let them know.  I began to squeeze the hand in Morse code to tell her.  She didn’t know Morse code.  Obviously, I wasn’t with it at that point.

On Feb 17, 2012, I went in for the by-pass surgery.  It was estimated to take only 3 1/2 to 4 hours total.  It didn’t go well due to having trouble finding veins good enough for grafting over the blockages.  The first is always done by using the mammary artery.  That meant that the surgeons needed to harvest 4 veins.  They started by harvesting 10 veins in my left leg and not finding enough good ones, went to my right leg and harvested another 4.  They harvested 14 in order to find 4 veins that were good enough to use.

That took a lot of extra time and my heart was stopped during this procedure.  Once a heart is stopped for 3-4 hours, it is problematic that it will restart.  Mine was stopped for 3 1/2 hours.  Once again, I was lucky.

That is me just after surgery and not yet awake.

This is just before the surgery.

I was up and walking around on day 3 and ready to go home on day 4.  However, first I had to attend a class about how my life would be changed.

Of the other 4 recent by-pass patients, I was the only one in any kind of decent appearing condition.

  1.  I learned that I would be weepy and I am.  Not a day goes by that I don’t tear up over either something wonderful or some tragedy.
  2. I would probably lose some of my stability and I did.  Even now in 2018, I have to be cautious with how I move around.  I walk easily and even do some jogging, but carefully.

We were instructed to walk 100 yards the first day home and increase it 100 yards each day.  Just walking to the street and back was more than 100 yards.  The second day I took my phone and told Linda that I would walk until I got tired and call her to pick me up.  I walked about 1 1/2 mile, into town before I called her.  After all, muscle wise I had been doing this and more for 50 years.

By-pass surgery typically gives the patient a good 10-15 years of active life.  However, due to my rotten circulatory system, that didn’t happen in my case.

Linda divorced me a few years ago and I moved in with one of my best friends, Rod.  While at his house, one evening in April 2015 I wasn’t able to go to sleep easily.  I was fidgety and restless, and that isn’t normal.  I knew that I had to go back to Kaiser to see what was wrong.

It turned out to be a heart attack.  I hadn’t had any of the usual symptoms associated with a heart attack.  I was told that my lack of symptoms wasn’t all that uncommon.  People can have a heart attack that results in death without the usual symptoms.  Who knew, not me.

Kaiser contracts with Mercy for all heart-related surgery, such as my by-pass surgery.  I was sent to Mercy for testing that showed that two of the five by-passed arteries we already clogged.  They were clogged at the heart part, not in the by-pass vein.  They put in two stents to open them up.

It is almost 3 years since the heart attack.  My only change in lifestyle is that I am on a vegan diet.  My cardiologist confirmed that it is the best diet for heart disease.

I spend as much time as possible building the BMW aspect of this website.  When I don’t have additional information about BMW motorcycles, I write things like this article.