Medical Updates

Evert Jonsson the Day After

If you have been following on this site, you know two of the top senior players (in the world), Evert Jonsson and Fred Drilling have had “heart surprises.”  Here is an update on their – and my – medical status…

Evert Jonsson’s Heart Surgery

For a reminder, Evert had ZERO SYMPTOMS, but because of what happened to Fred Drilling, he wanted to have a stress test; but before the stress test, he had to have a CT Calcium scan.  He did; and while the acceptable range is 0-400, Evert’s came in at a mind boggling 3,155.

He then insisted on having a heart catheterization to see what it looked like on the inside.  That was Friday.  They found his “widow maker” 95% blocked and they immediately brought him in for surgery yesterday.

I spoke with him this afternoon and he reported his double bypass was a success and he was “way ahead of the curve” due to his excellent physical conditioning.  He said, “First exercise breathing, second sitting in a chair breathing. And they told me I was so lucky it’s so much easier without a heart attack damage.”

Fred Drilling’s Back Surgery

Following his quadruple heart bypass surgery and knee replacement surgery, Fred reported on this afternoon about his Tuesday morning spinal cord surgery, “I checked in at 5:30 a.m., operating room at 7:30, out cold at 7:31, woke up at 10 or so and left hospital at 10:25, Starbucks breakfast at 10:30. No pain at all for a few hrs, and now just a little pain from the incision. No aches. Dr said everything went really well and 2 to 3 weeks I should see some good improvement from before. Almost canceled yesterday because I wasn’t sure it was going to accomplish what I needed done. So glad I didn’t. Got 2nd opinion from daughter Dr Tiffany Drilling, PT.”

My CT Scan Results!

It had been nearly TWO WEEKS since I followed Evert’s lead and had this easy and inexpensive ($75 out of pocket) diagnostic test done … but I had been unable to get anyone in my doctor’s office to provide me with my results.

Monday morning, I left a “strongly worded” phone message for the nurse, who returned the call in five minutes saying, “she would send a message to the Doctor.”  Well finally at 8 p.m. that night, the Doctor calls me…

While I love my doctor (he is the one who flagged my increased PSA number in 2007 resulting in my successful prostate cancer surgery), I first told him how unhappy I was being unable to get my results sooner.  He started to defend “the process” by saying that the data first had to be reviewed by a cardiologist and then … but he noticed that they had had my results for TEN DAYS and apologized.

Then he started some “medical speak” about “numbers outside the normal range”… but “ you being asymptomatic”.  I interrupted and told him the stories of my two super-athlete friends Fred Drilling and Evert Jonsson being “asymptomatic” and their negative results.

So after several minutes of conversation, I finally asked, “So Doctor, what IS my number?” (Understanding that the acceptable range is 0 – 400, with over that being at risk for a heart attack).  My number? 1,491.

The Key Lesson…

My doctor understood the background and said that very athletic people’s bodies tend to “compensate” for these heart issues by developing other solutions (I assume work-around blood flow), which allows them to then maintain their high levels of activity.  And thus, he wanted to immediately schedule me for a heart cath to better determine my situation.

Another key lesson… don’t be a passive patient and assume “they will take care of you.”  I was told, “don’t worry about your results; if they were high, someone would have called you by now.”  No… be an impatient patient and demand to know what is going on.

Tuesday morning, my Doctor’s office contacted three different Naples cardiologists, shared my records, and asked them to contact me.  Being proactive, I called the first one’s office and was told, “it could take 24 hours for them to receive and then review my records.”

I called the second one, got voicemail which said, “If this is an emergency, call 911.  If not, we will return your call within 24 hours.”

So I went out and played tennis!

Finally, in the afternoon, I made contact with a Scheduler and am seeing Dr. Santos Wednesday at 11 am to discuss/schedule next steps!

To know what a heart cath entails, you can click HERE …

Senior comments are always welcome.

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9 thoughts on “Medical Updates

  1. Best wishes to Evert and Fred. I hope there is a speedy recovery for both of them.
    George, I am happy that you are being pro-active in seeking a diagnosis and appropriate therapy, if indicated. Too many of us just sit around waiting for the inevitable to happen.

    Doc, as i wrote, i am a very impatient patient. george

  2. Hi, George-
    Congratulations….you win!. I only had 1344.
    I had a catheterization at the same time that they did my ablation in 2013, and the result was “negative”, which means the blood was flowing freely through the arteries, even though it had to go over bumps of calcium. The docs often don’t even bother to investigate further, as the acid test is “can you run around without having bad symptoms”, and you can do that.
    They’ll want to put you on a statin, which is no big deal, as long as you don’t have muscle side effects. I did have those side effects, but there are now so many different statins, based on different science, that they were able to find one that worked for me.
    I would presume that your plaque is very hard, which is good because your chances of having any of it break off (bad) is low. Mostly….if you’ve made it this far playing competitive tennis, you’re in good shape.
    I look forward to your “long story”. Although all this comes as a shock to you, it’s nowhere near as ominous as it sounds.

    John, that is very encouraging! thanks for sharing. george

  3. George,
    Make sure they don’t go through your right wrist for the catheterization. Notice that I’ve had to wear a wrist support for 18 months ago since they did that to me.
    I was told no tennis or golf for two weeks, but I think it was to allow my wrist to heal.

    Spike, warning noted! thanks, george

  4. Each one of us is different … the same , yet different and unique … the more we try and “streamline “ everyone’s “ individuality “ and prescribe a “baseline” … the more we will go down the wrong path in my humble opinion . Most md”s these days are far to concerned about a possible lawsuit that ends their careers than helping each unique individual patient .

    Marc, yes, it is surprising to me how different bodies react differently to the same situation. thanks, george

  5. Many thanks George for an especially valuable column. Good luck to you, of course, and to Fred and Evert for speedy recoveries! While I am 82 and presently free of any untoward symptoms, I am going to schedule a CT Calcium scan when possible. Your timely information about you, Fred and Evert will undoubtedly be of immense help to many of us! Thanks again and good luck, Tim

    Tim, good luck and i hope your numbers are “within the range.” george

  6. Former singles tennis player (shoulder). Currently competitive pickleball player winning several age-group gold medals in singles and mixed doubles. I eat an almost entirely plant-based, whole food, low fat diet and power lift (with a coach) for strength and quickness. Had some chest pains one day during last game of seven playing mixed. Finished game and pain went away prior to end of game. Two weeks later had chest pains again (not debilitating) during last game of seven. Pain gone in about 15 minutes. Showered and went to GP’s office. He ran EKG (normal compared to most recent from two years ago) but sent me to ER (NCH Downtown). Little bit high troponin levels (you can read about this online) after a few hours so they admitted me. Next day EMG (nothing) and next day nuclear stress test (again, all good). Was told by cardiologist I could resume normal activities. Two weeks later (of my typical physically active schedule) some chest pains again. Had cardiac catheterization (right radial, George, which went well, Spike’s concerns noted in comments above). 90% blockage of LAD (left anterior descending coronary artery AKA The Widowmaker). Stent inserted. The cardiologist was an interventional cardiologist—you might want to educate yourself beforehand about the different types of cardiologists. I have since read, in papers written by cardiologists, that it’s possible you might prefer not to have a stent inserted. I have since recovered from surgery but having some issues with statin. If you work out as much as I do, especially power lifting three days each week, you are more used to living with muscle pain, so you might not notice what the statin is doing to you, except I have noticed joint issues, such as pain in my left knee, then pain in my right knee, then knuckles in my left hand, etc., weird things that I never had before taking statins. I’m thinking of quitting them since my cholesterol and my bad cholesterol numbers are already pretty low.

    My best advice is to educate yourself to the highest level that you can understand. The cardiologist will have more practical experience than you but it’s possible to come close to their knowledge level. There are lots of resources available online (not all worth reading, but you know that). I should emphasize that I don’t feel any better, my stamina was always good and hasn’t increased. I was never out of breath.

    One of the bad things is you won’t be able to have your wife or partner accompany you when visiting the doctor or when getting the procedure, so be as prepared as you can be and write down all your questions and their answers. Since you and the doctor are both masked and can’t see each other’s faces, it’s more of an adversarial situation than it is when you and the health care providers (that you’ve mostly never met before) can see each other’s smiles and know when you’re trying to be friendly. Also adversarial because you’re both worried that you might catch the coronavirus from each other. Also, I recommend that you make them shave any areas to which they are going to apply electrodes. I hope someone will find my experience useful.

    Scott, great history and advice! PS i took myself off statins about six years ago and my cholesterol remained low without them! thanks, george

  7. George, for your information, generally the preferred insertion site is the radial artery of your right arm, if it can be used. You can read more about t his online. When the procedure is finished, you can be up and around if you want to be. They put a hard plastic air-tourniquet on your right wrist. If they use the femoral artery, you have to lie still in bed for about (I think) ten hours. I’m sure it’s not that bad, but it’s a bit quicker recovery time for you if they can use your right arm. Also, I’d advise you to have them shave any place they are going to put tape, such as the IV you’ll have in your left arm for the anesthetic. I mentioned the electrodes. One hassle I had was coming home after the first three-day stay I had in the hospital and having to remove about 10 or 12 electrode adhesive pads from the hair on my chest, which could have been easily avoided by shaving the areas. But you have to ask. And if you use the cardiologists at NCH, I’m pretty sure they’ll want you to spend a night in the hospital. I think one of your readers mentioned that they were awake during the procedure, but I have a very active imagination and my preference was to be far enough out of consciousness so that I’d be unaware of them rummaging around in my chest. lol. I hope this helps.

    Scott, thanks for the added info. Spike earlier noted that he had real trouble with their using his right arm. We shall see. george

  8. From all my reading and explorations . statins are wonderful for some and an utter disaster for others – about 10 years ago I had bloodwork done and the Doctor told me my blood work was exemplary …. and next he prescribed 3 different medications for me to take as a “ preventative “. Never went back to that doctor as I just didn’t understand his reasoning nor could he give me any real information as to why- love the last comment from Scott …. investigate investigate to the best out your ability and ask questions questions questions – I have found over the last few years that most doctors that see you are clearly doing your research are willing to really contribute to your knowledge base and well being – so I stay away from those that are unwilling to have those type of conversations .

    Marc, i have always felt that most doctors treat the SYMPTOMS not the cause. thanks, george

  9. Our prayers and best wishes continue to go out to Fred and Everett, and I loved George’s line about dealing with Dr. phone calls frustration….”So I went out and played tennis!”….Bravo. Be safe, everyone….wear a mask…and Vote! Scoot

    Scoot, let’s all go out and play tennis! thanks, george

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