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Know Your Heart

“It’s important to listen to your body and not ignore what it tells you.”
 — Bill Young.

One hot June day, Herndon resident Bill Young was mowing his lawn when something odd happened. “I started to feel jaw pain, a little nausea and my elbows hurt,” he recalled.

“I didn’t feel any chest pain or pain streaking down my arms. I went in the house and told my wife I didn’t feel well. I had some water and then felt fine, but I knew something was wrong.”

Bill, 66, had just had a physical three weeks previously, including a normal EKG. Fortunately, though, he listened to what his body was telling him and went back to see his doctor. A stress test showed a little irregularity and Bill was referred to cardiologist Stephen Day, MD for further evaluation.

“Sometimes patients do not have the traditional chest pain symptoms,” notes Dr. Day. Bill was experiencing a feeling of heaviness in his arms and a little nausea — symptoms that were consistent with a blocked artery.

Dr. Day recommended that Bill have an angiogram, a procedure using special dye and X-rays to view inside the coronary arteries. Bill’s angiogram showed that he had significant blockages. Most serious was a 70 percent blockage in the left main artery, the most important artery supplying blood to the heart. Surgery was the only option and it needed to be done soon.

Dr. Day performed the angiogram on a Friday and referred Bill to John R. Garrett, MD, FACS, Chief of Cardiac, Vascular & Thoracic Surgery at Virginia Hospital Center. Dr. Garrett saw him the following Monday and scheduled surgery to perform a three-vessel bypass on Wednesday.

“Patients and doctors tend to experience and even expect delays when scheduling surgery,” says Dr. Garrett. “Because my partner, John W. Rhee, MD, FACS, and I only operate at Virginia Hospital Center, we are more efficient and can make changes in our schedule to get things done quickly and appropriately. That’s exactly what we did for Bill.”

Bill couldn’t believe that he wasn’t more nervous than he was about having heart surgery. He and his wife felt reassured after meeting with Dr. Garrett.

“Talking with Dr. Garrett and the way he explained the surgery to us made all the difference.

On a personal level, the strength of the way he looked at me was more important than anything,” Bill said. “Dr. Garrett looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to take care of this.’ And the surgery was scheduled so quickly, I didn’t have the chance to have a lot of anxiety.”

Dr. Day selected Virginia Hospital Center because he knew that Bill’s surgery couldn’t wait.

“At Virginia Hospital Center, there are no delays,” Dr. Day said. “They’re very efficient in scheduling patients for surgery.”

From the reports he had received from previous patients, he knew that Bill and his family would be well cared for at Virginia Hospital Center.

“My patients like the experience from door to door,” Dr. Day said. “It’s a good experience from the moment they are admitted until they leave. At Virginia Hospital Center, there is the sense that the patient is at the center of things.”

On the day of surgery, the staff at Virginia Hospital Center made sure that Bill’s family stayed up to date on what was happening in the operating room.

“They were in complete communication with my family every 15 minutes or so during the heavy part of the surgery,” Bill said. “The communication was outstanding.”

The night after his surgery, Bill got out of bed and walked a little. The next day, he was walking up and down stairs. After only three days in the Hospital, he was discharged. As soon as Bill got home, he continued walking — and now, one month after his surgery, walks up to four miles at a stretch. He said that the lesson he learned from this experience was how important it is to listen to your body and not ignore what it tells you.

“If I hadn’t known my body, this could have killed me,” Bill said. “These people saved my life.”

Heart Services at Virginia Hospital Center

Cardiac, Vascular &Thoracic Surgery: Patient Success Story

1701 N. George Mason Drive | Arlington, VA 22205-3698 | tel 703.558.5000
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