Heart

Al Apking was Back to Work Less than Two Weeks After Heart Surgery

Al Apking learned how to stay in shape when he played basketball in college. Thirty years later, at age 54, he was still exercising almost every day – either at the YMCA, or working at his landscaping business. So when he felt chest pains and shortness of breath while spreading salt one icy afternoon, he figured he just needed to exercise harder.

But on the treadmill Al’s symptoms got worse. It was time to see his doctor.

A stress test and follow-up angiogram showed a genetic defect in one of the arteries leading to Al’s heart. The artery was kinked and needed fixing fast, and cardiac surgeon J. Michael Smith MD had the remedy. Days later, instead of following March Madness basketball on television with his buddies, Al was at Good Samaritan Hospital having robotic surgery.

Disappointed, his friends made plans to watch the last few days of the basketball tournament without him. Not so fast, said Al. “Thanks to the robot, Dr. Smith only had to make four little incisions in my chest in order to fix my artery. That meant I was back home in three days, just in time to watch the Final Four,” he says. “In fact, I felt so good, I had friends come over to watch it with me.”

Within two weeks Al was back at work with a heart that Dr. Smith described as being “in pristine working order.” Today, two years later, Al has a different problem which he blames on the staff at Good Samaritan Hospital. “They kept giving me those popsicles. Now I love those popsicles. I can’t stop eating them and I need to lose some weight!”

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Last Updated: September 23, 2014