Scott Frederick lifts weights during a Cardiac Rehab session (above). He had open-heart, triple-bypass surgery after experiencing extreme shortness of breath, but no chest pain.
Last year (2021) was like any other for Scott Frederick, 54, of Cedar Rapids. Other than dealing with COVID restrictions and working his IT job from home, he and his wife continued their usual activities and kept up with their three grown children scattered around the country. Slowly, Frederick noticed his endurance was diminishing.
“It all started last spring. I would get to the top of a flight of stairs and would have to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath,” Frederick recalled. “There were times when I’d be in bed struggling to breathe.
“My doctor and I thought with the onset of summer, being outside and doing more, it could have been asthma,” he recounted. “With an inhaler, things seemed to improve in the beginning, but after a while it didn’t seem to help. I was having to sleep sitting up in a recliner.”
Later that fall, when home for Thanksgiving, Frederick’s children noticed his declining health, and his wife encouraged him to see a doctor. The following Monday, he went to UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care – Westside and saw Jeff Jones, MD, who ordered X-rays and recognized the symptoms right away. Because of Frederick’s shortness of breath and swollen calves and feet, Dr. Jones told Frederick he suspected heart failure and immediately directed him to St. Luke’s Emergency Room (ER).
“I just stared at him,” Frederick said. “I was like, ‘are you kidding me?’ To my knowledge there’s no history of heart disease in my family, and I didn’t have any chest pain. But we went right to the ER.”
Frederick was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital and started on a medication to help eliminate the excess fluid that had built up in his body. It allowed him to breathe much easier. Once the fluid decreased, St. Luke’s Heart Care team scheduled an angiogram and an X-ray procedure with dye that is injected into the blood vessels to determine if there were blockages. Frederick had three.
“His heart was beating about a third of what it normally should, but he surprisingly never had any chest pain,” said Garry Weide, DO, cardiothoracic surgeon with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa and St. Luke’s Heart Care. “The blood flow to his heart was reduced, and his heart muscle progressively got weaker because it wasn’t nourished. As the heart pump began to fail, he started to build up a lot of fluid on his lungs and legs.
“By the time he arrived at St. Luke’s, he had severe obstructive coronary artery disease,” Dr. Weide continued. “One of the arteries on the front side of his heart was completely blocked, and he had two additional blockages to the side and back of the heart. The best strategy to improve the revascularization of his heart was through open-heart bypass surgery.”
“I read online about bypass surgery, and I was nervous about it,” Frederick remembered. “But Dr. Weide made it sound like it was no big deal. He does procedures like this every day and has so much experience. That put my mind at ease.”
Heart Surgery Restores Blood Flow
During the surgery, Dr. Weide harvested an artery from the wall of the chest and prepared the heart for grafts while Physician Assistant Lance Krueger harvested two veins from Frederick’s left leg. “We work simultaneously so we can be efficient through the operation,” Dr. Weide explained. “The biggest part of coronary bypass surgery is having the best ‘conduit,’ whether it’s arteries or veins. We sew them on to route the blood around the blockages and improve heart function. Given Mr. Frederick has diabetes, we avoided using the radial artery in his arm.”
Frederick spent two days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and was up walking the day after surgery. “I felt so much better and could breathe easier,” Frederick reported. “The care was exceptional, especially the nurses. They gave me that extra push to get up and start the healing process. We were out walking three or four times a day.”
At home now, Frederick continues to heal and attends cardiac rehab three times a week. He meets with dietitians and is learning to eat healthier. He’s looking forward to better weather so he can walk outside, explore and hike with his wife. He’s also planning to travel to see their children and hopes to reignite his former woodworking hobby.
Reflecting on the last few months, Frederick appreciates St. Luke’s ER and Heart Care teams. “I never clutched my chest or dropped to my knees in pain,” he said. “I may have had shoulder or arm pain, but I chalked it up to pitching batting practice with my kids for 20 years. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer. I’m thankful for the care I received and the quick diagnosis.”
Learn the warning signs of heart attack and tips for preventing heart disease. To connect with a cardiologist, call St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic at (319) 364-7101.
Watch Fredrick's Triple Bypass Open Heart Surgery.