Robotic Heart Surgery Patient Back on Bicycle Two Weeks Post-Op

Glenn Boutilier was not someone who should have heart disease. A fit 60-year-old, he bikes several times each week in good weather; a week-long cycling vacation with 50-mile rides each day has been an annual family event for 21 years. No risk factors, no family history of heart disease.

So when he “didn’t feel right” one day driving home from work, he wasn’t sure what was happening. “I felt discomfort in my chest on the left side. I felt so hot, flushed, as if hot air was blasting me.” He pulled over, but the pain abated, so he headed home.

When Glenn got home, he told his wife Donna that he didn’t feel good. “Don’t feel good as in ‘sick to your stomach?’ Or as in ‘need to go to the emergency room?’” she asked. After a brief discussion, they agreed: “E.R.”

Not a Heart Attack, But…

At Bethesda North, it was quickly determined that Glenn had not had a heart attack, but it wasn’t clear what was going on, so he was admitted to the Chest Pain Unit overnight.  This unit was created specifically for patients like Glenn, to allow the doctors to do a standard set of tests to determine the underlying cause of uncertain chest pain. These tests were inconclusive.

However, when Glenn told TriHealth Heart Institute (THI) cardiologist Sai K. Hanumanthu MD that he was planning to leave in a few weeks for a cross-country bike trip, Dr. Hanumanthu recommended one more test to be sure – a cardiac catheterization.

The cardiac cath, performed by THI cardiologist Richard Callihan MD, showed a 90 percent blockage in the left anterior descending artery, at the junction with another artery. Dr. Callihan talked with Glenn after the procedure. “I didn’t stent it,” he explained. A stent involves clearing the blockage and placing a small metal device in the artery to keep it open. “I believe I could have, but first you should talk to the surgeons to discuss your options. I think you would be a good candidate for robotic heart surgery.” 

Next Stop, Robotic Bypass Surgery

Robotic bypass surgery allows the surgeon to reroute heart arteries without opening the chest, often resulting in quicker recovery. THI cardiothoracic surgeon Loren Hiratzka MD consulted with Glenn the next day, and agreed that he was a good candidate for robotic surgery. At THI, certain surgeons specialize in robotic procedures, because with experience comes increasing skill. So Dr. Hiratzka referred Glenn to THI surgeon Eric Okum MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon who performs robotic heart surgery. Five days after his initial episode, Dr. Okum performed robotic bypass heart surgery on Glenn’s blocked artery at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Getting Back on the Saddle

He was released from the hospital three days later. On the way home, he and his wife went grocery shopping, “for about an hour” and then stopped at a local park for a walk of about three-quarters of a mile. After several days of walking around his neighborhood and his local park, he got permission to start on his stationery bike. At his two-week check-up, Dr. Okum gave him the go-ahead to ride his bike on the road. He did a 10-mile ride the very next day, and a 25-mile ride a couple of days later.

Afterwards, Glenn remarked, “I was really impressed by the coordinated care I experienced.  Everyone who took care of me was working really hard on being part of the team for the care. Cardiologists and surgeons, and nursing staff at both hospitals.”

Across the Country on Two Wheels

Now Glenn, his wife Donna, and daughters Emily and Joanna are on that cross country trip of 4,300 miles from Virginia to Oregon that they had been planning before this all started. They were able to depart just one week later than their plan and just five and one-half weeks after Glenn’s robotic heart surgery. You can follow them across America at http://boutiliersbikeamerica.tumblr.com/

Tags Heart