Emergency Heart Surgery Prevents Possible Emergency Landing

John heart disease

John Connelly and his wife Eirin had tickets for a 1 p.m. flight home from Cincinnati to Connecticut. Doctors told them later that if John had taken that flight, he likely would not have made it home.

John, a retired executive, was awakened by chest pain the night before. He had a history of heart disease, and had stents to open his arteries placed about 10 years ago. Since then he had occasionally experienced chest pain – benign angina brought on by exercise. He thought this was the same thing.

John and Eirin were staying with Eirin’s brother and sister-in-law, a nurse. In the morning, John felt fine, but he mentioned the pain to his sister-in-law. She advised him to see a doctor. He called his cardiologist back home. He told John, “Don’t fly back without seeing a doctor.” Luckily John listened to this good advice.

John and Eirin packed their bags and headed to TriHealth’s Bethesda North Hospital, still hoping to catch that afternoon flight. “The staff and doctors were looking at all the indicators,” John relates. “Everything was under control. The ED was very efficient.”

Four Blocked Arteries Lead to Emergency Surgery

After tests in the Emergency Department, John was diagnosed by cardiologist Craig A. Sukin MD with unstable angina, a precursor to an imminent heart attack. He told John he would not be getting on an airplane, and instead immediately performed an angiogram where he found four blocked arteries. Unfortunately, stents were not an option this time. Emergency open heart surgery was required. By now it was evening, but John’s heart could not wait until morning. A surgery team led by cardiothoracic surgeon Eric J. Okum MD was called in. After a successful quadruple bypass, John was on his way to recovery.

A Feeling of Security

John’s wife Eirin praises the team and the surroundings in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Bethesda North: “You go into a room and that’s always your room. When you go into that unit, you can’t help but feel secure in their ability and how much they care for you.”

“You’re really scared. But that first night, the nurse was by his side the entire night.” Eirin observes, “The unit had this sense of quiet and limited activity. It was very comforting that we never had to move somewhere else in the hospital.

“Where We Were Meant to Be”

“The doctors were absolutely fabulous. I kept telling John, when you get to know these doctors, you will wish you will be able to continue with them. There we were, a long way from home, but I really believe this was where we were meant to be to get the care we did, and the caring we did,” Eirin concludes.

John adds: “It was wonderful. The care was from the heart – very caring, very professional, yet very efficient.”

Five days later, John was discharged, back to Eirin’s brother’s home. Within a couple of weeks he’ll be able to safely take that flight home, with a healing heart and without the risk of an emergency landing.

Tags Heart