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Steve Shaw

Age 44Steve Shaw, Quadruple Bypass Survivor | Surviving Quadruple Bypass Surgery with Norton Audubon Hospital

I had lost hope. Hope that I would ever feel good again. Hope that I would survive.

I tend to internalize too much stress and hold onto it too long. About a year ago, some personal issues left me confused and distraught. I stopped listening to music, became depressed, sedentary, socially isolated and made other unhealthful choices in a futile attempt to numb the pain. Between June and February, sporadic symptoms made me wonder whether my broken heart was gradually choking on deposits of concentrated cholesterol known as plaque. It was.

Ever so gradually, my health was spiraling downward. As I continued to feel poorly, I began to shut down my life. I put my house on the market and emptied it in preparation for shorter-term living arrangements. In a worst-case scenario, I didn't want my survivors to be shouldered with the liquidation of my assets. I retreated, almost completely, from all but a few relationships and told my mother she had always personified goodness in my eyes.

Months of mild, silent suffering manifested in chest pain on February 3. As I drove home to Louisville from my workplace, the state Capitol, the chest pain intensified and I began to experience another classic symptom of heart disease in men: an ache that radiated down my left arm.

I telephoned my nephew and asked him to drive me to Campbellsville, where his father (my brother-in-law) practices general surgery, my sister is a nurse and my mother is retired. After a few minutes in the ER at Taylor Regional Hospital, the staff cardiologist, a trusted colleague of my relatives, pronounced me "one hot potato" and urged them to transfer me to Norton Audubon Hospital immediately.

 

After several tests there, I was scheduled for quadruple bypass surgery. I had four major blockages, none of which could be treated effectively with a stent. As I lay there waiting for surgery, surrounded by my family, I felt confident in the competence of my surgeon, Dr. Sam Yared, and the nurses to save my life. Through every interaction, they earned my trust and eliminated my fear. The last thing I said to my family pre-op was, "I'm not afraid, and I don't want you to be afraid either."

When I woke up in recovery, I thought, "Wow, I survived. This is my second chance." During my convalescence, my family visited and supported me as I expected, but I didn't expect to find another family caring for me at Norton Audubon. The nurses and physicians did everything in their power to make me and my family more comfortable. I was especially fond of Becky, Charity, Jessica and Nita, who cared for me with unwavering compassion and supported me through every step of the journey. To witness health care professionals doing what they love so joyfully and masterfully made me want to live. These were people I didn't want to disappoint; they cared for me as kindly as my own kin. And they made my recuperation easier than I ever thought possible. I didn't leave the hospital feeling like my old self; I felt better than I had in years.

With my new lease on life, I am making some changes. I'm reducing my stress level and exposure to vexations. I'm traveling and catching up with old friends. After having forgotten how good it can get, I am living my life again. And, in some ways, for the first time.

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