Jim Froedtert: Open-Heart Surgery

Jim Froedtert of Jackson is very happy to be alive and able to spend time with his grandchildren. Lifesaving open-heart surgery made that possible.

Jim Froedtert of Jackson is very happy to be alive and able to spend time with his grandchildren. Lifesaving open-heart surgery at Allegiance Health helped make that possible.

Jim said that cardiothoracic surgeons Mahender Macha and Vincent Simonetti applauded him “for being the second-worst patient they ever had at the Allegiance Heart and Vascular Center.” Jim was a "difficult" patient, not because of his attitude, but because of the complexities of his heart problems. Yet he is well and strong today, and working out regularly at the Allegiance Wellness Center.

Jim had never had a heart attack. During an annual physical, his doctor told him he didn’t like the sound of Jim’s heart, and he referred him to a cardiologist for tests. She detected a heart valve that wasn’t working properly and referred Jim to Dr. Simonetti.

“I was surprised to be seeing a heart surgeon,” Jim said. “I had been working hard raking leaves a few days ago and had no chest pain at all.” In addition to needing a triple bypass because of blocked arteries, Jim also required an aortic valve replacement and a mitral valve repair. The average open-heart surgery takes about 4 to 5 hours. Jim however, was in Surgery almost 12 hours—during which his heart stopped once and had to be restarted.

For Jim’s wife, Carol, and the rest of their family, it was a very stressful 12 hours. But Carol said “the nursing team kept us constantly informed. They were so supportive trying to take care of our family needs during this most stressful waiting time. They are the best.”

Jim has nothing but praise for the nurses and nurse practitioners, as well. One of his surgeons even spent the night at the hospital to make sure Jim was okay. “Their kindness and dedication is just amazing,” Jim said.

While most open-heart patients at Allegiance Health are able to leave the hospital in 3 to 5 days, Jim stayed 16 days and had become so weak that he had to learn to walk again. “The fist time on my feet with a walker was really hard because I had lost so much muscle mass,” he explained. “I needed a lot of practice, and Carol helped me a lot. Believe it or not, the nurses actually made it fun, pretending they were teaching us to dance.”

Jim finally returned home with the help of Allegiance Health Home Care, including physical therapist visits. The first week Jim was home, the CUB unit nursing team had the Hospital’s concierge service deliver a banana strawberry smoothie from the Allegiance Coffee Shop. They wanted to make sure Jim was getting the calories he needed to rebuild his strength. “You can’t ask for more personal care than that,” he said.

Jim now keeps up his strength through the Allegiance Health Cardiac Rehabilitation program. “I call it ‘happy exercise,’” he said, “because I get social support along with the physical workout.” He has also become “a firm believer in regular activity and eating right. “I am taking baby steps for my health,” Jim said. He’s also enjoying his time with his grandkids more than ever.

The best chance of surviving a heart attack is to act quickly. Do not wait for symptoms to go away. Call 9-1-1 immediately, and chew an aspirin while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.