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Robert A. Morris: You’ve gotta have heart to weather life’s storms

On Feb. 26, my wife, Joyce, had an appointment at Gates Vascular Institute to check on her aortic valve. It had been one year since she had a trans-aortic valve replacement, and the doctors wanted to see how she was doing. After some testing and consultations, we headed home with good news. After the events of the past four years it was a welcome sign. We both have quite a bit of experience with Gates – all positive.

Joyce developed a heart problem in 2002, a year after she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In November 2014, our cardiologist informed her that something needed to be done surgically. And that October, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I told the doctors they had the wrong person, because I didn’t have a heart. At least that is what the military told me for years.

I dealt with this issue mainly with medication until Dec. 28, 2015, when things really started to go sideways. I had been having dizzy spells. Considering my normal state, it was hard to tell the difference. Doctors first thought I had a problem with medication. (I didn’t.) There was also consideration that it might be an inner ear problem. (It wasn’t.) Brain problems were ruled out. (No brain.)

Our primary doctor told us to go to Millard Fillmore Suburban for testing. In the emergency room, I was hooked up to a monitor and immediately all kinds of bells and whistles went off. (I thought it was rather early to start New Year’s festivities). Needless to say, I wasn’t going home. After a number of tests, it was determined I needed to have an angiogram. The next morning, an ambulance crew picked me up and away we went to Gates. I wanted to ride shotgun, but they said no.

That afternoon, I watched on a huge monitor while the surgeon performed the angiogram utilizing a vein in my right wrist. While watching the monitor, I realized, “Uh-oh, that doesn’t look good.”

Later that day, the doctor filled me in as to my condition and said additional tests were needed. The next day, I went to the MRI lab and spent a full hour in the “tube.” Afterward, Joyce and my granddaughters, Rachel and Elizabeth, who are in their mid-20s, were with me when the doctor described my options: A, B or C.

Forget B and C. I didn’t see them as a viable option. Plan A, the installation of two stents, looked to be the best course of action, although the doctor made sure I knew I was at a higher risk, because I had two problems – a blocked artery and arrhythmia. So on Dec. 31, back upstairs I went and the doctor installed two stents.

Everything went well and that evening a technician came to my room and fitted me with a LifeVest wearable defibrillator that I might have to wear for up to 90 days. I could remove it only when I took a brief shower. Right away I considered taking six showers a day.

On New Year’s Day, I had an EKG and a couple of hours later they let me go home.

In mid-February, after more testing, my cardiologist called and told me I could remove the LifeVest. I wore it for 50 days.

Let me emphasize that the treatment I received at both hospitals was exceptional. The doctors, nurses, aides, technicians and all others displayed a very high degree of professionalism.

Some may wonder how old I am. I’m a 1933 model, and on my last birthday I was 29. How do you like that math? Hooray! It worked.