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    Laura - Nothing Textbook About It

    Laura -
    Laura - Nothing Textbook About It

    “It started in March. I had just finished teaching at my daughter’s school and was walking to my car when my heart started to hurt. It was very intense and in about two minutes it was gone,” Laura said. “I went home and told my husband, and we both figured it would just go away, but then it started happening every day.”

    Laura wasn’t alarmed about the pain and brushed off her symptoms. She was young, healthy and very active. She figured whatever was wrong couldn’t be that bad. But the pain in her heart persisted so she made an appointment with a physician in her area. 

    “I told the doctor that my heart hurt when I walked or did any strenuous activity. The doctor told me it could just be heartburn since I didn’t fit the stereotypical profile of a cardiac patient. After insisting it was my heart, the physician gave me a stress test that came out inconclusive,” said Laura.

    Because of her symptoms, Laura was then referred to a cardiologist for further evaluation. She tried to make an appointment with the cardiologist her physician recommended, but there was a six to eight week wait. Her friend urged her to see a cardiologist in Sacramento and after searching around she made an appointment with Sutter Medical Group cardiologist, Harvey Matlof, M.D., who was able to see her right away.

    Laura explained her symptoms to Dr. Matlof during her appointment. Dr. Matlof told her that it sounded like classic angina; everything she was experiencing was textbook except her age and gender. He then scheduled her for a few tests, including another stress test.

    “During the stress test the nurse told me to take my time and to let her know when it started to hurt and I needed to stop,” Laura said. “But I was really embarrassed because it was already really hurting and we had just started.”

    Laura’s stress test with Dr. Matlof’s office was abnormal and her blood work concluded that she was pre-diabetic and had high blood pressure. Laura was then scheduled for an angiogram, which is a test that determines the blood flow in the arteries to help discover how bad her condition is and what course of treatment she would need. Dr. Matlof instructed her to take it easy and to sit down and breathe through the pain when she started experiencing any of her attacks. 

    “I still didn’t think my condition was that serious even after speaking with Dr. Matlof and my abnormal stress test,” Laura said. “I never smoked, I don’t drink and I was young and lived a fairly healthy lifestyle.”

    Before her scheduled angiogram, Laura’s husband had a business meeting in Southern California so they decided to take their two small daughters to Disneyland. While enjoying the park, Laura had to keep stopping to rest her heart. “I’d walk 100 steps then have to rest,” Laura said.

    Back in Sacramento, Laura did little to prepare for her angiogram. She only told a few close friends what was going on with her health. “I didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Laura said. “I was absolutely sure the angiogram results would come back fairly clear and the worst thing I would need would be a stent or two.”

    But Laura’s angiogram didn’t go at all how she planned. Laura and her husband went to Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, for her scheduled angiogram and learned that Laura’s left main coronary artery, known as the widow maker, had an 80% blockage. She was told she had to have open heart bypass surgery immediately and wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital.

    “I was floored when I heard the news. I just couldn’t believe that my condition was that serious. Sitting in my room at the hospital I finally broke down and started to cry,” Laura said.

    Laura’s cardiovascular surgeon, Michael Ingram, M.D., comforted her and told her that she shouldn’t worry. His reassurance put Laura at ease and she began to calm down, and like Dr. Ingram said Laura’s surgery was “a piece of cake” and went just as planned.

    Now months after her surgery Laura has truly begun to realize how close she was to dying. “I still remember one of the physician’s comments after my surgery,” Laura recalls. “He told me I was lucky. That I just beat the widow maker and most people don’t.”

    Now that the worst is behind her, Laura reflects on the things she didn’t have to worry about while she was being cared for in the hospital, like the small scar on her chest and the small incisions on her leg where they removed the vein that repaired her heart. “I didn’t care about the scars when everything was happening, but now I am thankful that they are so small compared to what they could have been if Sutter had used different techniques,” she said.

    Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento uses procedures like endoscopic vein harvesting as a best practice for obtaining veins that will be used for grafting during a bypass. This procedure uses a minimally invasive approach allowing the surgeon to get the vein using three small incisions, instead of the traditional method where they cut down the length of the leg.

    Overall, Laura recovery has been pretty seamless. She sees life in a new light and has learned not to stress the little things.

    “There are so many things that Sutter has done that I am thankful for,” she said. “I am so grateful for my wonderful physicians, Dr. Matlof and Dr. Ingram. I am here today because of their care. I am also grateful for the treatment I received at the hospital; Sutter took care of all the small things so that I could focus on myself and my family.”


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