My father was already dealing with insulin shots every morning to treat his Type 2 diabetes, blood pressure pills, prescription diuretics to reduce swelling and even prescription probiotics to treat his lack of good bacteria in his intestines.
Just when we thought that we had every health issue under control, then comes the worst health news of all!
After a scheduled stress test and some other check ups, the doctor informed my parents that four of my dad’s arteries were 90% blocked and that bypass surgery was necessary.
Of course my parents tried to downplay the health issue and my dad even tried to decline the surgery completely, and started munching on salad in hopes that it would reverse this mess.
My brothers and I teamed up and convinced both parents that going through with the surgery would be the best decision for his health.
Even though the doctors warned that the surgery was going to involve weeks of recovery and pain, the payoff would be so worth it. Post surgery, my dad should expect to see improvement in breathing and blood circulation, and many more added years to his life.
My mom had to think about that last one, but then agreed that the surgery had to be done.
My mom and I admitted my dad on August 17th at 5:30am to Lancaster General Hospital, one of the top heart surgery programs in Pennsylvania.
After checking in, the administrative lady walked us to the elevator and escorted us to the first floor where my dad would get suited up and ready for his scheduled surgery.
At 7:30 am, a cute and calming anesthesiologist walked in to give us the run down on every pill, prick and pain killers that my dad would receive prior to surgery. Of course, he then followed with the disturbing possible outcomes, and one of them included “loss of life”.
My mom didn’t like that one too much and asked him to retract that statement and promise her that he would stay alive. His response was “I will do my best”… It also didn’t ease my mom when he introduced himself as Dr. Keller, which sounded like “Dr. Killer” in my mom’s ears.
If anyone knows my mom personally, her head always envisions the worst scenario! I had to be the positive voice in the room to counteract the death visions she was creating in her worry-wart mind. Geez…
At 8 am, Heart Surgeon Dr. Jeffery Cope walks through the curtains dressed up in a nice brown suit and jacket and initialed his name on my dad’s chest and legs, similar to how farmers tag the cows before butchering. Yup, and there goes my mom’s head churning again… “Chill out woman!”
By now, reality of what was going to happen was definitely kicking in, and my only choice was to breathe, calm my mom down, and trust and hope that all will be OK.
At 8:15 am, the heart team that would be assisting Dr. Cope came in to introduce themselves and explain more details about the surgery. They mentioned that the surgery was scheduled to start at 9:30 am and probably end around noon.
Since he was going to be heavily sedated, they gave us a rough estimate on his waking and that was going to be around 6 pm that evening.They also warned that he was going to be hooked up and plugged up to so many tubes and IVs and that he was going to look a bit scary and not to worry because it was normal. They assured us that he will be under great care in the Intensive Care Unit where he will be placed for a few days.
When the heart team was done with their disturbing run down, they gave my mom and I a pager that would go off/vibrate when the surgery was completed.
My mom and I kissed my dad and waived him goodbye as the team wheeled him to surgery.
My mom and I found a comfortable area and lounged around and talked about life. Finally around 11:30 am, one of the cute nurses on the team came up to us to deliver the news. She said that the surgery went very well and that they were in the process of cleaning him up and moving him to ICU. She then asked us to report to a private room where the main surgeon would personally give us more details.
About 15 minutes later, Dr. Cope walked into the room in his medical scrubs and congratulated us on my dad’s surgery. He said that he did really well and that he was already up in ICU and being taken care of. He did say that he still had a breathing tub in his mouth and that it wasn’t going to be a pretty scene and that we should probably wait a few hours until they pull it out and he starts waking up.
My mom and I decided to run home and freshen up and return a few hours later before he wakes up.
My mom quickly showered, made some food, vacuumed, did her hair, packed her overnight clothes and beat me to the hospital. I decided to wait for my younger brother Yousef to get home from work before heading over. Yousef got home around 5:30pm, ate a few bites of dinner and then we he to Lancaster General to see dad.
My mom met us at the Elevator and walked with us to the room and there her was..
My heart dropped to the sight of my dad hooked up to a breathing mask, heavily sedated and hooked up to IVs. All the beeping monitors and high tech devices didn’t ease me either. I could see that he was somewhat aware of his surroundings so I said hello and stood at the edge of the bed and massaged to let me him know that I was there for him.
If anyone knows my dad, he loves to be rubbed and massaged. Yousef also stood on the front end of the bed and rubbed his hands for extra support.
The next morning, my dad started to speak a little more and by day 3, the staff had him walking around the hospital. According the the ICU crew, my dad was recovering very well and fast.
My dad spent a total of 7 days in the hospital and then sent home to recover there. The hospital arranged a daily nurse visit for the next few weeks to make sure that his wounds are healing properly and help him with his overall recovery.
I’m actually sitting next to my dad now as I’m writing this and asking him questions about his status.
It has been 10 days now since the surgery and his complaints are typical. His chest feels very sore and tight, but that’s because they sawed his whole rib cage open to get to his heart so I would assume that’s a normal healing pain.
As far as his energy level, he’s definitely feeling very drained from all the pain killers that he has to take, and he can’t wait to stop taking them so he can have more stamina.
Since the surgery, my dad’s appetite was drastically decreased but yesterday was the first time that he felt hungry, craving quantities of food. And yes, some junk food too but it’s way too soon for that.
Overall, he is doing amazing! Of course, now he’s so against fatty foods, smoking and anything that is unhealthy. He’s even talking about going to the gym with Yousef and I when he feels more mobile.
So……….Now that I told you about how well the surgery went, let me back track and tell you a little about how my dear father’s lifestyle habits lead him to four blocked arteries!
Below, I have listed a few of the many lifestyle habits that may have contributed to my father’s heart surgery:
BAD HABIT #1 : SMOKING
My father’s little rebel-ass started smoking at age 13 and averaged two packs a day. And by age 30, he was up to 5 packs!
“ According to the American Heart Association, more than 400,000 Americans die each year of smoking-related illnesses. Many of these deaths are because of the effects of smoking on the heart and blood vessels.”
Smoking can raise heart rate and blood pressure, irregular heart beats and tightening of the arteries.
BAD HABIT #2 UNHEALTHY EATING
By the age of 30, my dad was a successful restaurant owner in Kuwait, and enjoyed cooking and eating anything and everything from fatty pieces of red meat, fried foods and the sweetest of butter enriched pastries and desserts. There was no such thing as calorie counting or diets to him back then.
A diet full of saturated fats is a sure way to cause plaque build up in the arteries, which then leads to heart disease. My dad’s unhealthy eating also induced diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
BAD HABIT # 3 LACK OF SLEEP
If you know any restaurant owners, you know that they live, eat and breathe their business and it can be quite stressful. Throughout most of his life, my dad worked from sunrise to past sunset and he had poor sleep habits.
Stress and lack of sleep can alleviate blood pressure and considered a risk factor in heart disease.
BAD HABIT #4 NO EXERCISE
Other than heading to the market or going to the Butcher’s to get some fresh meat for the restaurant, I never saw my dad engage in routine physical activity like walking or resistance training.
Exercise is very beneficial in keeping most health issues at bay like diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. Exercise can also help strengthen heart muscles and lessen the risk of heart disease.
In the United States, more than 60 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease. About 2600 people die every day of cardiovascular disease. Cancer, the second largest killer, accounts for only half as many deaths.
Even though I only mentioned 4 bad habits, there are many other contributing factors that can lead to heart disease such as heredity, gender (males are more at risk than women), obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, age and even alcohol.
“So Baba! (Dad in Arabic) What did you learn from all this?”
He answered in Arabic, but I will translate…
“When you’re young, you think you’re invincible. You eat all the lard, fat and junk food and think nothing of it. You smoke and drink and stay up all night partying and not realizing that it will impact you eventually.
Then you age, and then you notice that all the unhealthy things that you engaged in are slowly and surely starting to affect your health.
Then… you end up diabetic like me and needing every pill under the sun to keep your health in check.
So, I say…take care of yourself now while you’re young and keep up with your doctor visits. You can’t put a price on great health”
I patted him on his shoulder and gave him a sarcastic smile and said
“Well said Baba… too bad they had to saw you in half for you to realize this!”
When it comes to harsh events, my family copes by making fun and laughing because it’s just easier to deal.
And when it comes to achieving good health, I lead by example. I never like to preach and tell others what to eat or do, but I’m always the happiest to guide someone when they ask. So ask away please!
At the end of the day, everyone is the master of their own body and only they can make a change to better themselves.
I wish you all love, happiness and good health.