Friday, November 10, 2006

Dr. Wayne & Me

"Don't let them get near you with a scapel. You don't need surgery. You come see me," the forceful authoritative voice on the phone directed me. I had never met the man and had no reason to trust him. But then again, I had no good reason to trust the other physicians in my life either.

My primary care physician had sent me to a cardiologist after I presented with complaints of chest tightness and shortness of breath on exertion over the past several months. The cardiologist ran a stress test and took some pictures of my heart then said I needed an angiogram. Before becoming fully alert following the procedure, that cardiologist and a cardio-thoracic surgeon stood over my bed in the recovery suite and gave me the bad news.

I was told my heart was in great shape but the coronary arteries that supplied it with oxygen sucked. Two were 100% blocked and three others were 85% or more blocked. Under the influence of twilight sleep, administered for the cardiac catheratization done to perform the angiogram, I agreed and a surgery date of Thursday was set. This was on Tuesday.

At no time during this stressful period immediately following the angiogram did either doctor inform me of alternative and less traumatic treatments. I was not informed of the many complications, including heart attack or death, that could occur. I was led to believe that this, most common cardiac surgery, was a piece of cake. It was just a twist of fate that saved me from having my chest cracked opened and my heart stopped while five of my arteries were replaced.

On Wednesday evening, just after I started the pre-operative prep I was told to use the night before surgery, the surgeon's nurse called. It seems he was not in network with my insurance and therefore could not do my bypass. "But wait," I said, "Yesterday I was told I was a walking time bomb that could explode at any minute. I needed an immediate quintuple bypass to prevent a heart attack or worse. Now you are telling me I can't have the surgery because your doctor doesn't accepot TRICARE?"

That was about the size of it. My cardiologist would be in touch with a list of doctors in network. By Thursday, the day my surgery was to have taken place, I was much more alert than when the doctors attempted to railroad me into surgery. I asked the cardiologist how my heart could be so healthy when the arteries that feed it oxygen are so bad. He couldn't give me a good answer, so I did an Internet search for a second opinion.

Despite the urging of my primary care physician and local cardiologist to have the bypass, I decided instead to travel from Indianapolis to San Diego to find out what Dr. Wayne thought. It was probably the smartest move I have ever made. His website had come up in the Google Search I did on "noninvasive cardiology."

Eevn before I made the trip, I realized Wayne was an unusual physician. He actually and personally answered emails within a few hours time. Not only that, he personally called me on the phone to discuss my case. We set an appointment for the following week, on June 4, 2004.

I've been in medicine for going on 40 years, but Wayne's practice was like none I'd ever seen. No technician, no nurse, no receptionist, Just Dr. Wayne and a roomful of modern looking electronic equipment. Dr. Wayne did it all and provided old fashioned, personalized medical care. The entire initial visit lasted a total of about five hours with an hour break for me to eat and him to record the data he had gathered. He patiently answered all questions in an understanable manner and would not let me leave until he was satisfied I understood all of his instructions about my medications.

I learned how collateral blood vessels take over for blocked cornary arteries. I found out about angio-genesis. I found out that my severe coronary artery disease did not cause my angina. It was high blood pressure I didn't even know I had. He was the first doctor to ever measure my BP while at rest and then after a minute of squeezing a grip-measuring instrument while holding my arm in the air. It was 120/70 at rest and 180/130 after one minute of squeezing.

To make a long story short, Dr. Wayne started me on a regimen of a beta-blocker, ace inhibitor and diaretic in June of 2004. I was free of all angina until about a week ago. Since then, I have adjusted my medication dosage and have had no problem. I am seeking a noninvasive cardiologist to take care of me and I hope I can find one in Indiana.

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