Andy Recovers From Quadruple Bypass
Surgery to Swim Competitively Again
Andy (left) and Billy Cordero, Masters Swimming Coach (right)
While growing up in Iowa, Andy enjoyed swimming as a pastime. Today at 45, he credits the sport with helping to get his life back to normal following quadruple bypass surgery at Swedish Covenant Hospital.
Through high school, Andy swam competitively. So when he moved to Albany Park and heard about Galter LifeCenter’s Swedish Fish swim team, he immediately joined. “I got the bug and started competing again,” Andy said. “I really appreciated the encouragement of my coaches and teammates.”
It was swimming with the Swedish Fish that first tipped Andy off that something was wrong with his heart. “I began to experience sensitivity and slight pain in my chest when in the pool,” he said. Later, during a short treadmill run, Andy became lightheaded and passed out. What he initially thought was a dizzy spell turned out to be cardiac arrest. “I’m very grateful that I was with friends who knew what to do and that there were trained people nearby, including a medical student,” said Andy. “Thankfully, they had a defibrillator and my heart was quickly restarted.”
Andy woke up in Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Emergency Department, where an angiogram discovered blockages in three arteries at 80-90% and one at 70%—four in total. Dr. Frederman Concepcion, a board-certified cardiologist with Swedish Covenant Medical Group, recognized the severity of Andy’s case and consulted with a heart surgeon to discover the best treatment option for him.
Andy's physicians recommended a quadruple bypass. While the prospect of surgery was intimidating, Andy was confident in their expertise. “They were very professional in their efficiency and preparation,” said Andy. His surgery was completed without complications.
Post-Surgery Support, Lifestyle Changes and a Return to Swimming
Following surgery, Andy began cardiac rehabilitation
at Galter LifeCenter to educate him on important lifestyle changes. “For me, the main things were cutting salt, reducing 80% of the meats I ate and following more of a Mediterranean diet,” he said. “I also learned how to control and manage stress using meditation and breathing techniques. I can’t thank Judy and the entire cardiac rehabilitation team enough for all their efforts. And I appreciate that they worked directly with me and my doctors.”
“As a young and active person recovering from a surprise cardiac event, the key to Andy’s success was the comprehensive care he received from the time of diagnosis, to definitive surgical treatment and—most importantly—cardiac rehabilitation,” said Dr. Concepcion. “I monitored his recovery closely and was in frequent contact with the cardiac rehabilitation team. I even met with him several times while I was training for a marathon at Galter LifeCenter.”
Soon Andy was able to use a stationary bike, then progressed to walking on a treadmill. After five or six weeks he was able to get back in the pool, and eventually swim laps. “Just being with teammates and swimming one lap was very motivating,” Andy said. “I started wading, then kicking, then slowly swimming 100 yards, then 200—it was really nice to be back!”
“Andy's cardiac arrest was a surprise to everyone on the Swedish Fish,” said Peter Marcy, a certified personal trainer and Swedish Fish coach at Galter LifeCenter. “He was one of our strongest and most fit athletes. The team immediately sprang into action to lend support where it could. They were constantly visiting him after his surgery and offering support.”
During his rehab Andy had a goal in mind. The state swim meet took place just a few months into his rehabilitation. He wanted to race a short distance at the event. “I swam some 50-yard races and some relays,” Andy said. “While I did not allow myself to swim in the competitive heats, it was great. I felt that I had my body back and was in control again.”
“Andy was a source of inspiration for the team,” said Peter. “Andy's high fitness level became a testament to the power of an active lifestyle. He was not only present at the Illinois Masters state swim, but actually competed in some of the races. It was one of the greatest highlights of our season and has motivated our entire team.”
“Andy worked hard to recover in partnership with the cardiac rehabilitation team,” said Dr. Concepcion. “They should all be recognized for their great efforts and the positive results they’ve achieved with Andy and many others.”
Andy looks forward to competitive swimming and plans to compete in the U.S. masters long course nationals meet in Minneapolis. He will continue training with Galter LifeCenter’s Swedish Fish swim team and compete in next year’s State swim meet to help the team achieve another top three finish. “Growing a bond in your local neighborhood is really rewarding,” Andy said. “I can’t say enough about the doctors, nurses, rehabilitation team and my swim teammates who I have relied on!”
During his recovery and rehab, Andy also created artwork that played a critical role in his healing process. He used a wide-range of visual imagery that evolved week-to-week to help him express how he felt as he went through his rehabilitation. View Andy’s artwork>>
Frederman Concepcion, M.D., is a board-certified cardiologist with Swedish Covenant Medical Group and the medical director of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s echocardiography laboratory. His clinical interests include coronary artery disease, echocardiography and preventive cardiology and health maintenance.
Learn more cardiovascular services at Swedish Covenant Hospital.
By Bill Ligas | Published August 3, 2017