Jay Walkowski

First post: 1/18/2017 Latest post: 3/5/2017
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Hello everyone:So plenty has happened since mid-December. Where do I start? This fall while up at the campers in Rome, I had some tightening in my sternum walking the hills and cutting wood. I just felt like I needed to take a break. After 45-60 seconds, the tightness was gone. On December 9th there was a snow storm. On December 10th, I had some tightening in my sternum again while wrestling with the snow thrower. I just felt like I needed to take a break. After 45-60 seconds, the tightness was gone. That same day, there was a news story about someone not much older than me that died of a heart attack while shoveling snow. Two instances of chest tightening made me think, “Hey, don’t you think you should get that looked at?” So, I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for Wednesday December 14th. She took my vitals (which were fine) and decided to perform an EKG test. That was fine too. So I asked her what the next step would be. She suggested that I have an optional test called a heart scan done. So even though it wasn’t covered by insurance (a whopping $99.00), she ordered it and I scheduled it for Monday, December 19th. The heart scan is a 15-minute test that measures the plaque in your arteries. After the test is finished, the technician presents you with your score. The scores range goes from 0 (no plaque) to 400 and above (excessive plaque). I was shocked! My score was 1,973. Yes, I’m an over-achiever! Within an hour of being out of the heart scan, my primary doctor called me and basically said, “Holy crap!” She immediately changed me from my normal cholesterol medicine (Pravastatin) to Lipitor, started me on a baby aspirin regiment, and also started me on a beta block. So, once again I said, “What’s next?” She said that I should have a stress test and meet with a cardiologist. The stress test was then scheduled for Thursday, December 22nd. The goal of the stress test is to first, take an ultrasound of your heart at rest. Next, put you on a treadmill and incline it so that it stresses your heart to present the same symptoms that I’ve been experiencing. Lastly, once those symptoms are present, do another ultrasound of your heart and then compare the images. I’ll summarize the test - after 6-9 minutes on an inclined treadmill, the symptoms presented and the cardiologist said that the comparison of the ultrasound images pointed to a couple of blockages. So, I then asked once again, “What’s next?” The cardiologist said that a heart catheterization would need to be done to identify the blockages and correct them with arterial stents. He thought that there would probably be two blockages. I had a followup heart consultation on Monday, December 26th and  a heart catheterization done on Tuesday, December 27th. Before going under anesthesia, I commented to the cardiologist that I thought he would be implanting two stents. He said that he thought that was pretty accurate. After coming out of anesthesia (at least halfway), I asked the cardiologist if I was correct with my guess of two stents. He said, “No.” I asked, “Three?” He said, “No. I couldn’t do them.” After a pause, I asked for some clarification. He said, due to the location of my blockages, stents couldn’t be implanted because they would block other arteries. So, I then asked once again, “What’s next?” The cardiologist said that I would need bypass surgery. This was a punch in the gut! How have I gone from some tightening in my sternum under exertion to needing heart bypass surgery? (Side note: Both of my grandfathers died of heart disease and/or heart attacks.) After a spirometry (lung capacity) test and another consult with the cardiologist on Wednesday, January 4th, we scheduled an appointment with a heart surgeon.So, this afternoon we met with the heart surgeon - the head of the cardiology department. He said that, after reviewing all of the images and test results, I will need three bypasses. The good news is that all of my test results are great and I have no other complications like liver, lung, or kidney disease, no diabetes, and this is all before a heart attack so the heart muscle is strong. They run your results through their risk worksheet and my risk is 0.03% This is a GREAT score.I will be having heart bypass surgery on Thursday, January 19th. I will be in ICU for 1-2 days and then in the heart care unit for 2-5 days. 
 We don’t anticipate any issues, except that there’s going to be a long road ahead. I’m looking at being out of work for a minimum of 5-6 weeks. The sternum takes that long to fuse back together.So, if I have any words of advice, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I can trace my symptoms back about 15 years. The first time I remember having that tightening in my sternum was helping Paul drag a deer out of the woods. I just thought is was because I was all bundled up, overweight, and out of shape! Nope. Although round is a shape, that wasn’t it! I’m not really nervous about the surgery. I just want to get it over with and start rehabbing so that I can get on with the second half of my life. Ways too many things to do like seeing my kids grow up, walking Alexis down the aisle, holding my grandkids, and enjoy many more sunsets with Cris, and in between all of that, still irritating each of you! Do I need anything? No. Just say an extra prayer for me and my family, and God (and modern medicine) will take care of the rest!I love you all,Jay

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