Tom Bailey’s Story of Bypass Surgery

Tom Bailey has a uniquely personal perspective on the advancements in bypass surgery over the past 30 years. He had his first bypass surgery in 1973 when he was 35. His second bypass surgery was in 1988 when he was 50. And he had his third bypass operation in 2003 when he was 65.

“Each operation has been 15 years apart. That means I’ll have my fourth one when I’m 80. I’m already looking forward to it!”

Tom has a family history of coronary artery disease. “I was just 35 when my doctor told me I needed to have my first bypass surgery. My brother died of a heart attack in his early thirties. All of my male cousins have either died or had heart surgery.”

Tom felt especially fatigued before his most recent bypass operation, which he postponed until his wife retired from her job as a nurse. “That way she was able to take care of me after my operation.”

His most recent operation was also the first one done off-pump, without being hooked up to a heart-lung machine.

Thirty years ago, when Tom had his first bypass surgery, the operation was in its infancy. “I was in the hospital for almost three weeks back then. I was in a rehab program for at least six months. There was a tremendous amount of trauma associated with the surgery. But at the time it was considered to be leading edge.”

“Fifteen years ago I was in the hospital for less than a week, but the recovery period was still very long. This was partly due to the large incisions made to harvest veins, and the related scarring. And I had a lot of pain in my upper chest. That pain was made worse by the coughing required to clear my lungs after on-pump surgery.”

“My most recent surgery had so much less trauma associated with it. As a third-time bypass patient, I’m the kind of patient who’s most challenging. Not every surgeon will operate on someone who has already had two bypass operations. I have lots of scar tissue from my earlier operations. This new technology is especially helpful to patients like me.”

“Endoscopic vein harvesting, or EVH, is also a major breakthrough. The tiny incision made in my thigh meant that I had no pain in my legs afterwards. After my earlier operations, I had large incisions that were very painful.”

“After off-pump surgery and EVH, I was able to start exercising much sooner. I was quite run down before the surgery, so it took some time to rebuild my muscles. But in other respects, I felt good after just a few weeks.”

A retired chemical engineer who lives in Newark, Delaware, Tom and his wife have two children and three grandchildren who live nearby. He goes for walks and keeps busy doing yard work for himself and for his son and daughter.

He is grateful for a quiet, family-oriented life in a part of the country he finds “so pretty there really is no reason to go anywhere else. I feel very lucky. And after my two previous experiences with bypass surgery, I feel like I was especially lucky this time around.”