July 23 • 06:27 PM

Similar problems, better solutions

June 25, 2008
Editor's note: The following guest column was written by Barbara Schweitzer of Capac. Barbara, 75, was raised in Detroit and moved to the Capac area from Florida about three years ago. She and her husband Larry have many children and grandchildren.

In 1941 I was 8-years-old and my sister, Nancy, was 5-and-a-half when our mother explained to us that our father, who was 40-years-old, had angina pectoris. It didn't mean much to us except when Dad would have an "attack." We girls were to remain very quiet, leave the room and wait out the time until Dad was over it. That began in 1941 when there was no open-heart surgery, no invasive procedures of any kind to alleviate the pain and the disabling effects of angina. The only relief came from nitroglycerin tablets, dissolved under the tongue.

Mom worried every time Dad was late coming home from work. She stayed "on edge" for the 10 more years he was alive. We girls did the same. Nan and I helped by doing the heavy work of shoveling snow, shoveling the coal into the furnace and carrying in the box with Dad's 24 bottles of beer. I remember that he even wore a windbreaker jacket under his overcoat so that the cold Michigan winter wind wouldn't hit his chest. We were a family waiting for the second shoe to drop, wondering when, where, how.

Dad was bowling with the guys in December of 1951 when he collapsed after making three strikes. (We were sure he had a smile on his face.) Even though his bowling mates administered the nitro pill, it didn't work that time.

It was October of 2006 which found my sister's husband, Jerry, coming out of surgery in which a valve in his heart was replaced with a pig's valve and a double bypass was performed. He was 74-years-old, but the cardiologist predicted that since Jerry was in excellent health he would come out of this severe surgery with no problem.

Nancy and the four children may have doubted that when they saw Jerry in the recovery room on a respirator and with tubes coming out of every orifice. He was unconcscious and very gray looking. As my sister said, "no matter how well prepared you are for what his condition after surgery would be, it is very difficult to see your own in that state." He remained in the hospital for less than a week. When he came home he moved very slowly, spoke quietly and slept a lot in his Lazy-Boy.

But the doctor was right; he would recover with no problems and be as normal as he had ever been and better. He was out walking within two weeks and at 90 days had his last appointment with the surgeon.

When I asked him what his symptoms had been he could only relate that he noticed that after a day's work building a room onto the back of the house in August, putting the roof on, drywall up and painting, he was a bit tired. (He understates).

"Well, Jerry," I said. "Just think: If you could do all that when two months later you needed radical surgery on your heart, imagine all the rooms you could build now!"

Castle Creek
07 - 23 - 19
Site Search


Thanks for visiting Tri City Times