River man thankful for expert care at the Upper Michigan Heart Institute
“They give excellent care”
Yearly physicals diagnose
conditions which otherwise may go unnoticed. For Howard Hebert, 67, of
Rapid River, an annual exam can be credited with helping save his life.
Each year, Hebert makes it a priority to visit Gladstone family medicine
physician Dr. James Dehlin for his checkup. Missing his last appointment
in late April could have cost him his life. Fortunately, Hebert understands
the importance of the yearly exams.
“I go every year,” he said. “I have my blood, cholesterol
and enzyme levels checked.”
Hebert was surprised when Dr. Akhter Saeed, a family medicine physician
on staff at OSF St. Francis Hospital in Escanaba, called him the evening
of his exam. Concerned about the test results, Dr. Saeedasked him if he
had experienced any chest pain.
“I told him I felt fine,” Hebert said. “A little tired,
Test results, however, indicated that Hebert may have had some damage
to his heart. Dr. Saeed recommended that additional workup be done at
OSF St. Francis Hospital. When this workup confirmed that Hebert had significant
heart disease, he was referred to Marquette General Hospital.
“I knew I wanted to go to Marquette General,” Hebert said.
“They give excellent care.”
William Jean of Upper Michigan Cardiovascular Associates, PC, and
on staff at MGH, met with Hebert to discuss treatment options. Dr. Jean
had planned to insert a stent — a tiny mesh-like tube that holds
open clogged or narrowed arteries — to increase blood and oxygen
to Hebert’s heart. However, a complete blockage in one of Hebert’s
arteries eliminated that option. Further workup also revealed that one
of Hebert’s heart valves had become narrowed with age.
Dr. Jean referred Hebert to cardiovascular-thoracic surgeon Dr.
Douglas Baldwin, who is also on staff at MGH. Dr. Baldwin recommended
coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) and valve replacement. The
surgery was scheduled a week later, but in the interim, Dr. Baldwin prescribed
nitroglycerin pills, which prevent chest pain by relaxing the blood vessels
that travel to the heart.
“His arteries were narrowed by 50 to 75 percent,” Dr. Baldwin
said. “His heart function was about two-thirds of what it should
have been. He also had a narrowed aortic valve, and we decided to replace
that as well.”
CABG is the most commonly performed open-heart surgery in the U.S. It’s
done when other procedures, such as angioplasty or stent placement, aren’t
appropriate. CABG increases the blood and oxygen supply to the heart by
bypassing damaged vessels. As people age and their health decreases, it
may be difficult to distinguish between natural wear and tear and a serious
condition. In some cases, chest pain may not be present.
“The only thing wrong with me was that I was tired,” Hebert
said. “But I thought it was just part of getting older.”
Heart valves keep blood flowing in the right direction through the heart.
Valves can become damaged with age, causing them to become either too
tight or leaky. When either of these things happens, extra strain is put
on the heart as it works harder to overcome the valve abnormality. This
eventually leads to a weakened heart. The goal of surgery is to repair
or replace damaged valves before they lead to permanent damage.
“Howard had tightening of his aortic valve,” Dr. Baldwin said.
“We replaced his valve at the same time that we did his bypass operation.
This will prevent significant problems with decreased heart function in
the coming years.”
Both mechanical and tissue valves have their advantages, but for people
60 years and older, Dr. Baldwin commonly recommends tissue valves. Tissue
valves are usually made from either cows or pigs. Tissue valves, unlike
mechanical valves, have the advantage of not requiring long-term blood
thinners. Compared with older models, the newer tissue valves have excellent
“The doctors seemed amazed that I didn’t have any pain,”
Hebert said. “Everything went really well. The doctors were excellent.”
Five months later, Hebert is back to his normal activities, including
helping out a friend three to four days a week with construction work
and driving a truck.
“I’m retired,” Hebert said, “but I’m not
sitting in the house. I’m back doing the things I love to do and
enjoying each day.”
Some of the common symptoms of heart disease include:
· Pressure, fullness, tightness or pain in the chest, lasting five
minutes or longer
· Pain radiating to the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back
· Light headedness, dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea
· Persistent indigestion-like discomfort
· Unexplained shortness of breath
· Extreme fatigue
If these symptoms last more than 30 minutes, a person may be having a
heart attack and should seek immediate attention.
For more information about the Upper
Michigan Heart Institute at Marquette General,
call 225-4600, 1-800-562-9753, ext. 4600 or visit www.mgh.org/heart/heart.html.