Life after open-heart surgery

Life after open heart surgery Don Loveless photo

There was a pain in his chest and an ache in his heart.

Don Loveless’ chest pain was the result of cardiovascular disease that wouldn’t get better on its own. The heartache came from wondering what might have been if the medical opportunities of today were available to his father, who passed away from heart disease 30 years ago.

Combined, those factors were enough to convince the 68-year-old from La Porte City now was the right time for open-heart surgery. Loveless first met James Wright, MD, Cedar Valley Medical Specialists cardiothoracic surgeon on a Wednesday and was at UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital for triple bypass surgery on Friday. 

Following surgery, his dedication to cardiac rehabilitation has opened the door to a bright future that includes four grandchildren and his wife, Marlene. “It definitely altered my life as far as feeling better,” Loveless said. “It has also caused me to appreciate life a lot more. The grandkids, especially, family means a lot when you go through something like this.”

Sick with symptoms

The symptoms Loveless was feeling had been present for a while. Some open-heart patients have problems that fly under the radar. Some open-heart patients require surgery in order to live longer but not necessarily feel better. 

Loveless is one of the lucky ones who had ongoing chest pain and chose surgery in order to rid him of daily discomfort and improve his overall health.

“I remember when my dad had open-heart surgery – he came out in terrible shape,” he said “He never really did regain any quality of life that was worth much. But now I’m definitely feeling better and, hopefully after some rehab, I’ll be ready to enjoy life again.”

Loveless had already returned to normal activities about a month after surgery. The timeline is important, considering timing was perhaps the biggest decision of all.

“In this case, he had symptoms for a long time that didn’t necessarily have to be fixed immediately,” said Dr. Wright. “Some people, when you ask ‘when can you do it?’ They say they want to do it as soon as possible. Other people need to think about it. It’s always important to have their mind in a good place and be convinced they’re doing the right thing.”

Rapid Recovery

Since the surgery, Loveless has been on the fast track to recovery. His hospital stay only lasted three days – a day or two shorter than average.

His three visits per week to the Allen cardiac rehab unit – along with his “homework” – have been a success. And a little over a month after surgery, he was cleared by Dr. Wright to return to normal activities.

“He’s what we try to do – a perfect example of what’s the best about our field,” said Dr. Wright. “When we can improve symptoms, that’s as good 
as it gets.”

“I’ve never had anybody tell me I wasn’t ahead of the game,” Loveless added. “My family has all been in awe I’m in as good of shape as I am.”

Watch an open-heart surgery video.

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