Most of us have someone in our lives who holds a special place in our heart. Baba is one of those people. My feelings for him go beyond any words I can use. My family feels the same about him, as do his own relations. That’s a lot of people. Baba comes from a large family of siblings and first cousins who grew up as close-knit family. The next generation of Baba’s family, as you can imagine, is a much bigger group. Baba is very special to all of them.
I have known for a few years now that cholesterol had built up rather early in the arteries leading to Baba’s heart. He and I spoke often about his treatment options, but at the time he was only experiencing a few mild symptoms. Then one day out of the blue he called to inform me that he had undergone a cardiac catheterization to check on the blockages and that his cardiologist had advised him to have bypass surgery.
“The previously known blockages are now more severe and involve more arteries,” he told me.
After discussing the diagnosis with his cardiologist, I asked to see the cath pictures myself. Following the review, I agreed with the surgery recommendation and promptly offered to operate.
Reaction to Baba’s upcoming surgery from his immediate family members and well-wishers was mixed. Some had expected that his condition would come to this because cardiovascular disease is rampant among Baba’s immediate relatives and several others in his family had already undergone this surgery. Others were surprised because Baba took better care of himself than most of his relatives.
Once word got out that I was going to operate on Baba, many of my friends, well-wishers and family members cautioned me about getting involved with Baba’s surgery.
“Why do you want take this risk?” a friend of mine asked.
“If he does well with surgery, that’s what is supposed to happen and you get no credit,” said one of my long-term well-wishers. “If something goes wrong, everybody is going to question why he did not go somewhere else.”
“How would you feel if something were to go wrong?” asked another.
“What would happen to the family relations if there were to be a complication?” asked another well-meaning relative.
These all are seemingly legitimate concerns. Still, I had absolutely no hesitation in stepping up to care of this very special person. Truth be told, I go through this deliberation on a daily basis regarding almost every patient on whom I perform surgery. In a town like Springfield, Ohio, just about everyone I take care of is known to me or my family in some way or the other. Our SRMC cardiac surgical team is strong. We are confident, well prepared and experienced. We have a firm unwavering practice of doing the same procedure the same way each and every time. We assume that every patient is indeed special, so we always to do our best with each and every patient and then let the chips fall where they may. I knew Baba would be in great hands. And to be honest, even though there are plenty of talented surgeons and surgical teams out there, I didn’t want to entrust his care to anyone else.
Baba’s operation—the most common type of heart surgery—went well. We successfully built bypasses around the blocked arteries of his heart. While everybody is celebrating his successful recovery, however, I wonder how many of them are thinking about what they should be doing so that they don’t end up with same heart problems. The same goes for any family when an immediate family member or close relative needs heart surgery.
Watching Baba and so any other family members and friends struggle with cardiovascular challenges is exactly the reason I am so strongly motivated to persuade people to follow preventative health measures. My efforts to help keep people healthy is about the people around me—my family, my friends, coworkers, colleagues and so on.
So then let me raise the alarm flag. Based on what we know, the next generation of Baba’s family is at even higher risk than Baba and his generation. Baba grew up walking just about everywhere he needed to go. He ate little or no processed foods. Soda pops were a rare treat. Compare this life style to the present generation of young people all over the world. They are at a higher risk due to modern-day conveniences, poor dietary habits and lack of exercise.
So I want to challenge the rest of the Baba’s clan along with every family in the same situation.
How many of you are going to bury your heads in the sands of denial and believe that “it is not going to me.” Who among you is going to continue to behave like you are invincible?
How many of you will be defeatists and say that “ill health is coming anyway, so let me enjoy while I can?” Which one you will be heckling the only one or two in the family who are actually trying to modify their eating habits in order to diminish their health risk?
And finally, how many of you will be placing all your trust in a bunch of pills and refuse to change anything else?
Unfortunately I see far too many family members of heart surgery patients not hearing—or accepting—this health message until it is too late. They don’t seem to understand that the changes they make will dictate whether they end up as my next surgical patients.
I hope Baba’s family members and along with all families in the same situation, especially those younger generations, will take note and be proactive.