Five Days After Surgery, Steve's Back in the Gym
A fit and healthy father of three, Steve Jones was shocked when he learned that he had a torn mitral valve and needed heart surgery. He was a frequent world traveler and consistent gym-goer, so a condition of this magnitude was far from being on his radar.
At the time, Steve, who was born and raised on the island of Anglesey in Northwest Wales, United Kingdom, was living in Singapore. He had a doctorate in photochemistry and had spent many years traveling in India and Singapore working as a scientist. On top of his work and family life, he always made time to hit the gym, keeping up with his health and fitness.
But, in the summer of 2015 while living in Singapore, Steve was going through his typical fitness routine and noticed something was off. A series of dizzy spells after cardio activity was not typical for him. He continued to work through this peculiarity, only for it to come up again months later. In December of that year, after a trip to Cambodia, Steve found himself in the hospital with a bacterial gut infection. When the doctors listened to his stomach, they heard something more. Unfortunately the problem was more than an infection – it was Steve’s heart.
Immediately, Steve began seeing heart specialists in Singapore. It was confirmed that there was a tear in his mitral valve, but what the two specialists had to say was not satisfying to hear. Both specialists told Jones that he would need open heart surgery and then they began spitting out statistics that would decide the fate of Steve’s heart. They both said they would Steve a one to three percent chance of not waking up on the operating table. Steve thought to himself, “Those are not good odds… three in a hundred?” The doctors also gave Steve an 80 to 85 percent chance they could fix this valve. The recovery in the hospital would be 10 days, and overall recovery would last three months. Steve felt that there had to be a better option.
During a trip to Cincinnati for business meetings, Steve heard from a former colleague about a fellow church member of his who happened to be a cardiothoracic surgeon – J. Michael Smith MD. Steve immediately met with Dr. Smith, who handed him a better set of statistics for the fate of Steve’s heart.
Dr. Smith proposed robotic heart surgery. He would give Steve a 95 percent chance that his heart would be fixed and a near-perfect survival rate. Steve would be out of the hospital after four days. His overall recovery would be sooner than three months. Steve understood the seriousness of the procedure, but was confident of the outcome under Dr. Smith and his team, “They were very clear, very honest about what to expect. I felt very confident that they were telling me the truth, and very confident understanding what I was going to go through,” said Jones.
After what seemed an obvious decision to him, Steve and his family moved back to the United States in July of 2016 and Steve had his operation at the end of that month. He was up and walking by end of the first day and out of the hospital after three and a half days. Most amazingly, Steve spent an hour on the treadmill only five days after the surgery.
Shortly after the operation, Steve went to see a cardiologist for a follow up. He says, “He looked at me and said ‘I’ll see you in a year.’” After being assessed, he was good to go. “It was an amazing experience,” he says of the folks who were involved from day one. “Treatment before and after was excellent. I’m just very happy that the communication was at the right level that I needed. I got great clarity and was left with no surprises.”
Although having a heart procedure was not something Steve expected this early in his life, he wasn’t totally unfamiliar with it. His father had triple bypass surgery. Steve says, “I saw what type of pain my father was in; I had nowhere near what he experienced. I can’t remember any pain. I was given pain killers, but I didn’t take any, because I didn’t need any.”
Now, Steve is healthy, living in Cincinnati with his family and working full time. He continues to hit the gym and play golf frequently. Reflecting on his experience, he is happy to share his story. “Given that it was a full-on heart operation - they simplified a very difficult and complex procedure. It was truly amazing and a story that needs to be told.”