The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 22, 2014

Bill Eggert | A heartfelt message of thanks

Bill Eggert

— February is the month the medical community sets aside for matters related to heart health. That makes sense, given that Valentine’s Day is right in the middle of the month.

So it was ironic that I found myself dealing with the matter of the heart in a serious way this month.

This column is a valentine to the staff of the Conemaugh Health System.

I had been having some infrequent, minor chest pain near my collarbone. I mentioned it to Dr. Lisa Wirfel, my family doctor. She said it had been three years since my last stress test and suggested I have a new one, which I did.

The results showed a slight abnormality and I was scheduled to see Dr. Patel, a local cardiologist.

Dr. Patel suggested a heart catheterization, to see what was going on, and if there was a blockage they could rectify the situation with a stent. I took the earliest appointment they had, had the procedure, and they found one of the arteries going to the heart had a 95 percent blockage.

Dr. Patel suggested a stent and I complied. The entire process took only an hour. I was kept overnight for observation.

I want to acknowledge the wonderful treatment I received from the Conemaugh medical staff. From Drs.  Wirfel and Patel (and their support staffs) to the medical staff at Memorial Medical Center, everyone treated me in a caring, professional manner.

From pre-op (Sherry) to the operating room (Veronica, Jeff, SNP – long story – and Dr. Patel), to the nurses on the eighth floor (Clarissa, Melissa, Brittany and Jessica) who took care of me during my stay, all were attentive, friendly, supportive and helpful.

Father Jim, from the spiritual ministry, stopped by as well, lending support.

Before I left, another nurse (Michelle) dropped by to inform me of a cardiac rehab program at Good Samaritan, and I assured her I would sign up.

I also want to acknowledge family and friends during this period.

Thanks to old pals Dan and Fred for transportation to and from the hospital (I was not allowed to drive).

Thanks also to family and friends on Facebook and off Facebook, as well as fellow

St. Benedict parishioners.

I know I have complained about the evils of Facebook before, but it was very comforting while bedridden to be able to check my tablet for supportive messages from those on FB the past two weeks.

Finally, I want to thank my mom, who called twice a day to check up on me and boost my spirits with humor.

Obviously, I need to take better care of myself.

I am not a smoker nor do I live a reckless lifestyle.

That said, I could stand to have a better diet, exercise, lose a few pounds, deal with stress better.

That’s something we could all do.

From time to time, my dad used to advise me “not to sweat the small stuff.”

The problem for me was what to designated as “small stuff.” Everything seemed like “big stuff” to me.

In retrospect, I can see that personal slights, whether perceived or real, are not worth getting worked up over. Likewise the jerk who cuts you off in traffic – especially if he has road rage issues and is carrying a gun. All really small stuff.

I debated about whether or not to write this column. I am not seeking sympathy; there are far worse heart-related issues that patients are dealing with every day.

The nice, elderly gentleman in the bed next to me was dealing with a recent pacemaker implant. While a curtain separated us, I could hear his quiet suffering sometimes as the nurses assisted him. Yet I never heard him complain.

My procedure was a walk in the park compared to his. I felt no pain whatsoever during or after the procedure.

But I decided to write this column for my dad, my paternal grandmother (who passed before I was born) and my maternal grandfather, who I was fortunate to know. Heart-related illnesses took them from their families quickly and without warning, and left grieving family members in their wake.

If someone, anyone, reading my column today decides that, yes, they should get that chest pain or symptom checked out, and it saves their life, then it will all be worthwhile writing this.

Nobody need lose a parent, offspring, friend or relative despite that ticking time bomb in their chest.

As the old adage goes: “The life you save may be your own.”

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.