The Moultrie Observer
Heart disease is a silent killer, claiming 910,000 American lives every
year by far the most common cause of death in America. Until this
summer, two Moultrie brothers were unaware how close they were to
joining that number.
After all, they were only in their early 40s, and people that age don't have heart attacks.
Bharat Patel was only 40 when he started feeling chest pain. He chalked it up to a pulled muscle for about three weeks, but it wouldn't go away. Knowing his family's history of heart problems, Patel finally went to a cardiologist " just to rule it out".
'I figured I had at least until I was 55,' he said. An uncle's heart disease showed up in his 50s, and Patel's father and a second uncle made it into their 60s before problems presented themselves.
Blood work, however, showed that Patel had had a minor heart attack the evening before his doctor's appointment. Before the day was over he was in the intensive care unit.
He underwent a heart cauterization, a test that measures blood flow through the arteries of the heart. His wife, Diana, sat in the waiting room, sure he would be fine. Wrong again. That same day an ambulance took him to the hospital at Emory University for a stent procedure because of several blockages.
Then Patel's luck took a turn for the good. He was a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure called robotic coronary artery bypass grafting. The surgeon, Dr. Michael Halkos, would cut an incision in Patel's shoulder, navigate a robot by remote control through the incision and into the chest cavity, then use the robot to insert the stent.
In a traditional open-heart surgery, the kind of surgery Patel's father had had, the surgeon splits the sternum and opens the entire chest to access the heart, and he attaches the stent by hand.
Bharat thought this 'minimally invasive' version sounded much better.
Ten days after arriving at Emory, Patel underwent the surgery, which Halkos described as
'textbook perfect.' Four days later, Bharat Patel was leaving the hospital.
The experience gave Bharat's brother, Nayan, a lot of food for thought. He was a year older than Bharat, and of course he had the same family history as his brother. And there was something else, something Bharat didn?t know.
Nayan asked Bharat how he knew he was sick, and Bharat started describing the chest pain.
'It felt like an elephant was stomping on my chest,' he said.
'Nayan was looking at me kind of funny,' Bharat recalled, 'and I said, 'Why' Have you had the same thing???
The same week Bharat's pain had begun, Nayan had felt a popping sensation on the left side of his chest, then it radiated across. He'd blamed it on sleeping wrong or muscle pain from baseball practice with his son. Now, though, he was getting concerned.
'As the doctors and nurses took care of my brother, it seemed like each one looked at me, noting I was 'next' and that I needed to get checked,' he said. 'Even the surgeon, on the morning of my brother's operation, whipped out his business card (in fun) and handed it to me like he was trying to sell me a car.' (HEY NOW! :) lol )
Once Bharat was safely home, Nayan set about getting tested too. While sitting in the doctor?s office waiting for his appointment, he had what he thought was a heart attack. He felt light-headed and out of breath, and there was chest pain. After an examination, the doctor determined it was likely a panic attack, but he set up an appointment for a stress test the following week.
'The next morning, my body was telling me something was not right,' Nayan said, 'and I called my wife to take me to the emergency room. After a night's stay, everything checked out OK; even the nuclear stress test was negative.'
But Nayan's persisted, and the doctor set up a CT angiogram, a test that examines the arteries.
'Less than an hour after the test, [the doctor] called me himself on my cell phone in disbelief,' Nayan said. 'I was positive for two major blockages.'
A heart catheterization found the situation was worse than the angiogram had indicated: Five arteries were 70 to 80 percent blocked. Up to this point, Nayan's discussions with his doctor had centered on diet and exercise. Now they were talking surgery.
'This is when I first started thinking about going through surgery, anesthesia, and if I would be able to make it through without complications,' Nayan said. 'A small sense of finality motivated me to get my household in order and gain the peace and faith that only comes from God.'
Only five weeks after Bharat's surgery, Nayan was facing the same thing, except that he didn't qualify for the minimally invasive grafting his brother had. Bharat's blocked artery was on the top of the heart; Nayan's blockages were on the back side, where the robot couldn't get to them. He would need traditional, open-heart surgery.
'The morning of the surgery came and went, like a light switch turned off and then on' it was done!' Nayan said. He was released after three nights in the hospital. He's been home about five weeks.
Since their surgeries, both men have paid closer attention to their diets, watching salt intake and choosing grilled over fried foods when they go out to eat. Bharat walks on a treadmill; Nayan walks around at his son's baseball games.
Neither has suffered complications from their surgeries, a fact that both attribute to the multitude of prayers being said for them.
'So many friends, family and church family have continued to support us and have lifted us up in prayer,' Nayan said. 'I have no doubt now that grace and mercy is the only way we have made it through.'
On the one hand, the Patel's weren't surprised by their diagnosis, they knew heart disease runs in their family. But on the other hand, it did shock them because they are so young, and because they don't have other risk factors usually associated with it. Neither smokes. Neither was overweight. Bharat said in 20 years at Robert Hutson's Ford dealership he's hardly taken a sick day. Nayan, an estimator for a general contractor in Valdosta, said this was his first time in the hospital.
But in spite of all that, the silent killer was in their midst, and their experience made them want to urge others to get tested.
'For both of us to go through this,? Nayan said, 'we've got to get the message out.'
And their mission is bearing fruit.
'So many people who heard our story told us they got checked,' Nayan said. 'That's about the best thing they could say to us ?'
' Because we influenced them,' Bharat finished.
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